Russian pilot found alive 30 years after shot down in Afghanistan

A Soviet soldier who went missing after a battle in Afghanistan in 1980 was found alive in 2013, living in the Afghan city of Herat. (Courtesy: me.me)
Updated 02 June 2018
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Russian pilot found alive 30 years after shot down in Afghanistan

  • RIA Novosti reported that during the course of the war between 1979 and 1989, 125 Soviet planes were shot down in Afghanistan
  • When Soviet troops pulled out in 1989, around 300 soldiers were listed as missing

MOSCOW: A Russian pilot who was missing presumed dead after his plane was shot down three decades ago during the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan has been found alive and wants to come home, Russian military veterans said Friday.
“He is still alive. It’s very astonishing. Now he needs help,” the head of the paratroopers’ union Valery Vostrotin told RIA Novosti state news agency.
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 is likely now to be over 60, the deputy head of veteran’s organization Battle Brotherhood, Vyacheslav Kalinin, told the news agency, adding that he now wants to come home.
He suggested that the pilot could be in Pakistan, where Afghanistan had camps for prisoners of war.
RIA Novosti reported that during the course of the war between 1979 and 1989, 125 Soviet planes were shot down in Afghanistan.
When Soviet troops pulled out in 1989, around 300 soldiers were listed as missing. Since then some 30 have been found and most returned to their home countries.
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’ organization said that his mother and sister are both alive.
Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid also traced Pantelyuk’s 31-year-old daughter who was born months before her father went missing.
Senator Frants Klintsevich told RIA Novosti that this was far from the only such case. He said that 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 was seriously wounded and was nursed back to health by local people and then converted to Islam.
He told AFP: “I stayed in Afghanistan because Afghans are very kind and hospitable people.”


US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

Updated 20 January 2019
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US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

  • US and Pakistan should have “strategic engagement”, not transactional relationship
  • The American senator sees a “unique opportunity” to change diplomatic direction of US-Pakistan ties

ISLAMABAD:  US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday President Donald Trump should meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as soon as possible to reset long-difficult US relations with Pakistan and push for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

The comments, which add to growing signs of improved relations between Islamabad and Washington, come amid efforts to press on with talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at an agreement to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

"I've seen things change here and all in a positive direction," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has generally been a staunch supporter of Trump, told a news conference in Islamabad.

He said a meeting with Khan, who has declared strong support for a peace agreement in Afghanistan, would leave Trump "far more enthusiastic about the region than he is today".

"With Prime Minister Khan we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship," he said. A previously transactional relationship, based on rewards for services rendered, should be replaced by "strategic engagement", including a free trade agreement, he said.

US relations with Pakistan have long been dogged by suspicions that elements in the Pakistani establishment were aiding the Taliban, a charge Islamabad strongly denies. However, relations have appeared to improve in recent months amid efforts to push the Taliban towards a peace deal.

Trump, who has in the past argued for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan, has made it clear he wants to see a peace accord reached rapidly although the Taliban have so far refused to talk directly with the Afghan government.

Graham's trip to Pakistan coincided with a visit by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and top military commanders including General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command.

Khalilzad left Islamabad without announcing a new date for talks with Taliban representatives, who have refused further meetings until the US side agrees to discuss a timetable for withdrawing its forces.

The uncertainty has been increased by reports that Trump is prepared to order more than 5,000 US troops out of Afghanistan, a move that would represent a sharp change in course from Washington's previous policy of stepping up military action against the Taliban.

With Afghan forces suffering thousands of casualties a year and struggling to hold back the Taliban insurgency, the reports have caused alarm in Kabul, prompting many close to the government to question the US commitment to Afghanistan.

Asked whether there had been confusion over the US message, Graham, who has called for a Senate hearing on Trump's plans to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, said "without a doubt" but added that he did not believe Washington would stand by and allow a Taliban victory.

"The world's not going to let the Taliban take Afghanistan over by force of arms. That would be unconscionable," he told Reuters. "Any president who let that happen would go down in history very poorly."