A Russian pilot who was missing presumed dead after his plane was shot down three decades ago during the Soviet intervention in has been found alive and wants to come home, according to a military veterans group.
“He is still alive. It’s very astonishing. Now he needs help,” the head of the Russian paratroopers’ union, Valery Vostrotin, told RIA Novosti state news agency on Friday.
Soviet soldier presumed dead found living in Afghanistan
Vostrotin, who heads the Russian side of a Russian-US joint commission on prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action, declined to name the pilot for reasons of confidentiality.
The man was shot down in 1987 and was likely now to be over 60, the deputy head of veteran’s organisation Battle Brotherhood, Vyacheslav Kalinin, told the news agency.
He suggested the pilot could be in Pakistan, where Afghanistan had camps for prisoners of war, and said he wanted to return home.
RIA Novosti reported that 125 Soviet planes were shot down in Afghanistan during the course of the war between 1979 and 1989. When Soviet troops pulled out in 1989, about 300 soldiers were listed as missing. Since then, 30 have been found and most returned to their home countries.
The Kommersant business daily reported that only one Soviet pilot was shot down in 1987, naming him as Sergei Pantelyuk from the southern Russian Rostov region, who went missing along with his plane after taking off from Bagram airfield, now a US air base, north of Kabul.
The head of a local veterans’ organisation said his mother and sister were both alive and the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid traced Pantelyuk’s 31-year-old daughter who was born months before her father went missing.
Afghan village built on a Soviet dream collapsing into deadly power vacuum
Senator Frants Klintsevich told RIA Novosti that this was far from the only such case. He said he had met a former Soviet soldier on a trip to Afghanistan a few years ago who refused to give his name and spoke Russian with difficulty and said it was too late for him to go back.
Former Soviet soldier Bakhretdin Khakimov, who was interviewed by AFP in 2015, was one of those who opted to remain in Afghanistan. He told AFP: “I stayed in Afghanistan because Afghans are very kind and hospitable people.”