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Where Are They Now?

Our knowledge of the whereabouts of members of passengers and crew of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, shot down on August 31, 1983, is based on information received by the Research Centre for Prisons, Psychprisons and Forced Labor Concentration Camps of the USSR. This research center was established by the late Avraham Shifrin, an Israeli who had, himself, spent time in the Soviet prison camp system. Mr. Shifrin maintained an extensive network of contacts within the Soviet Union and its successor states. Much of the information that we have was obtained at great personal risk by his contacts.

Avraham Shifrin with wife, Eleanora
Avraham Shifrin with wife, Eleanora
The Centre’s investigations in 1989 to 1991 determined that the passengers and crew of KAL 007 were taken, upon rescue, to the KGB Coast Guard base on Sakhalin. Within a few days (by September 4, 1983), everyone was taken to the KGB base at Soveteskaja Gavan on the Siberian mainland opposite Sakhalin, roughly 600 miles north of Vladivostok. Here the men, women and children were divided into separate groups. The men and women were taken by train to Tynda on the Baikal-Amur Railway about 800 miles inland where at least some were put to forced labor. The male adults were, at some point, distributed to a number of different camps throughout Siberia some of which were camps that also held American POWs and other foreign prisoners.

Congressman Lawrence P. McDonald, Democrat, 7th District, Georgia, was separated from the rest of the passengers and taken by special air transport to Moscow on or about Sept. 8, 1983. A special KGB guard unit brought from Khabarovsk to accompany him. The KGB had a fleet of special aircraft, the 910xx series, that was used exclusively for transporting high profile prisoners, VIPs, and others requiring the strictest security. These were used for even very short trips rather than using overland transportation.

The child passengers were kept in Sovetskaja Gavan in a specially established isolated temporary orphanage until the end of October. They were then gradually transferred to various orphanages in Vladivostock, Omsk, Barnaul and Kazakhstan based on their racial identity. The intent was to assimilate them into the predominant racial populations in these areas.

Congressman McDonald
Upon arrival in Moscow, McDonald was taken to the Lubyanka KGB prison where he was given the designation, “Prisoner Number 3.” While at the Lubyanka, he was kept in isolation, taken from his cell only for questioning. He was interrogated several times by the head of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB, Vladimir Kryuchkov. (Kryuchkov was a member of the core group who sought to seize power from Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991. He was arrested when the coup failed but was later released. He attended the inauguration of President Vladimir Putin—at Mr. Putin’s personal invitation—in 2000. Mr. Kryuchkov is now an internationally known lecturer.)

Following a number of questionings, Mr. McDonald was moved to the Lefortovo KGB prison also in Moscow for continued interrogation over a period of several months. He was then moved to a “dacha” (summer house) in Sukhanova near Moscow where the interrogations continued. Mr. Shifrin’s sources indicated that they had strong reason to believe that McDonald was interrogated under drugs that may have eventually resulted in identity loss. He was brought eventually to a prison in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, the region where the Soviets had important nuclear missile test ranges and similar installations. He may have been brought to this area to be interrogated by experts there as part of the effort to find out what he could say about the US nuclear program and what he knew about the Soviet program. 

Early in 1987, former NSA agent, Jerry Mooney, testified before Congress about the “Moscow Bound” program and the importance of Karaganda as a center of the Soviet nuclear program and an area where certain highly-skilled American POWs with technical knowledge were brought. Following his testimony, the world press focused on this area. In an apparent attempt to keep McDonald’s presence there secret, he was moved in mid-1987, by special transport, to a small prison near the town of Temir-Tau, also in Kazakhstan. Here he was given special treatment but was not allowed to communicate with anyone. In the summer of 1990, he was taken to the transportation prison in Karaganda. Here, as an unknown prisoner whose file is sealed by the KGB, he remained. As of 1995, all efforts to obtain additional information from the Karaganda prison have failed. Congressman’s present location is unknown—it may be there or he may have been moved since then.

Child Passengers
Efforts to track down the children of KAL 007 have been very difficult. Many of the youngest ones may have been adopted into local families. Some information that is not very clear was obtained apparently about the Grenfell children, Stacey and Noelle, ages 3 and 5, of Rochester, NY. It appears that they were placed in an orphanage in Vladivostok until 1990. The older child, Noelle, now aged about 12, was sent to Medical School 3 associated with the city hospital in Khabarovsk for training. She was there for about a year then was taken elsewhere and her file removed from the school and hospital. At this point, her trail was lost.

A Female Passenger
Sources provided information on one young oriental woman who was set to work felling timber in the area of Tynda, Siberia. Prior to 1985, she lost her left arm below the elbow in a work accident. Subsequently, she was sent across the vast Siberian land mass to the village of Nachodka on the Tazovskaya Guba inlet above the Arctic Circle where she remained until sometime in the late summer of 1991 or 1992. The villagers there thought that she was of indigenous Nenets origin because of her Oriental features. She did not mix with the villagers and was generally unknown by them. They were aware that she had been removed by men in authority.

Male Adult Passengers
Sources indicate that most of the male passengers and crew were taken to a series of three ultra-secret prison camps in the dense taiga region along the Amur river near the village of Zapokrovsk not far from the Chinese border. These are the same camps where American POWs were known to have been located. Unfortunately, all efforts to get to the camps and identify passengers visually failed because of the intense security in the area.

Additional camps were in the area of Cita, headquarters of the Far East Theater of Operations of the Soviet military, at Nercinsk, Nercinski Zavod and other locations.

At the time, there were also three other ultra-secret camps for foreign prisoners on Roger’s Bay, Wrangell Island in the Arctic Ocean. Mr. Shifrin had reason to believe that some of the passengers and, especially, the crew may have been taken to Wrangell because of their aeronautical training. These camps have since been abandoned and all inmates moved elsewhere.

This is the extent of our current knowledge concerning the locations where the passengers and crew of KAL 007 were taken after being rescued from the downed plane. We call for the Russian government to conduct a thorough investigation of their records and of the records of these camps so as to locate the present whereabouts of these men and women who were so tragically wrenched out of their private lives and the lives of those who loved them. We call for the return of our lost loved ones.

The International Committee for the Rescue of KAL 007 Survivors, Inc.
February 14, 2002

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