MOSCOW, Dec. 22 – Russia officially admitted today that Soviet authorities wrongfully imprisoned the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who died in a Soviet jail after saving thousands of Jews from Nazi-occupied Hungary in World War II.
But the acknowledgment, by the prosecutor general, failed to clarify details surrounding Wallenberg’s death, even though just three weeks ago a special commission investigating victims of Stalin’s political terror said he had been executed in the infamous Lubyanka prison at K.G.B. headquarters.
Russia is still coming to terms with the crimes of its Soviet past, and today’s announcement was a small step forward. In the 10 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has yet to give a detailed explanation of what happened to Wallenberg, who disappeared in 1945 on his way to meet Soviet authorities in Budapest.
According to today’s statement, Wallenberg and his driver, Vilmos Langfelder, ”were repressed by Soviet authorities” and arrested without being charged with a crime. They had been described as ”socially dangerous,” the statement said.
”The investigation has failed to establish the true causes of the arrest and imprisonment of Wallenberg and Langfelder, the actual circumstances of their deaths or the existence of criminal case documents or personal dossiers,” the statement said.
That admission fell short of what many here had hoped for – a full accounting of how Wallenberg died.
Sweden welcomed the announcement cautiously.
”The circumstances of Wallenberg’s fate remain unclear,” the Swedish Foreign Ministry said in a statement quoted by Reuters. ”We hope to see the complete text of the decision as soon as possible.”
Wallenberg’s sister, Nina Lagergren, was more blunt.
”They cannot believe we would be satisfied with this,” she told Sweden’s national news agency in a report cited by Reuters. ”They must come up with concrete evidence.”
It is generally accepted that Wallenberg was executed in 1947 in a Soviet prison; today’s statement said only that he had been held for more than two and a half years before he died.
But Aleksandr Yakovlev, who heads the special commission that issued the earlier statement, said in a radio interview today: ”No document certifying that he was executed has been found; many documents have been destroyed. But at some point Kryuchkov, in a moment of candidness, told me Wallenberg was liquidated,” referring to a former K.G.B chief, Vladimir Kryuchkov.
Mr. Wallenberg was last seen on Jan. 17, 1945, in Budapest, when he drove off to meet Soviet authorities to discuss protection for Jews once the Red Army drove out the Nazis.