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.”


Beijing dismisses ‘hearsay’ on Muslim internment

Updated 13 November 2018
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Beijing dismisses ‘hearsay’ on Muslim internment

  • Critics say China is seeking to assimilate Xinjiang’s minority population and suppress religious and cultural practices that belong in the minority
  • Beijing has repeatedly described the camps as vocational “training centers” that were built to help people drawn to extremism

BEIJING: China defended its internment of Muslims in the country’s northwest as a terror prevention measure on Tuesday, calling on the international community to reject “hearsay” and believe its official line.
Up to a million Uighurs and other Chinese Turkic-speaking minority groups have been placed in political re-education camps in the Xinjiang region, according to a group of experts cited by the United Nations.
After originally denying the existence of the centers, Beijing has repeatedly described the camps as vocational “training centers” that were built to help people drawn to extremism to stay away from terrorism and allow them to be reintegrated into society.
But the program has faced rising criticism outside the country — notably from the United States and human rights groups.
“We hope our journalist friends and our other foreign friends will take into consideration the information and briefings on the situation given by the Chinese authorities,” said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“Rumours and hearsay should not be believed,” he said standing next to his German counterpart Heiko Maas at a press conference.
“It’s quite clear that the government in Xinjiang knows best what is happening in Xinjiang — not other people and third party organizations.”
Critics say China is seeking to assimilate Xinjiang’s minority population and suppress religious and cultural practices that conflict with Communist ideology and the dominant Han culture.
Former inmates of the camps say they were detained for having long beards or wearing the veil.
Attacks attributed to Uighurs have left hundreds dead over the last few years in China, many of them in Xinjiang, where Beijing says its concerned about a rise in Islamic radicalism.
The authorities have put in place intrusive measures of security — ubiquitous surveillance cameras, DNA sampling, home visits by officials and GPS trackers in cars.
“We call that a combination of repression and prevention. But we place the priority on prevention. If it’s done well, terrorism won’t expand and take root. It’s the most effective way to combat terrorism,” Wang Yi said.
The German foreign minister did not mention the Xinjiang region at the press conference, but did say he had “spoken on the question of human rights” during his closed meeting with his Chinese counterpart.
A debate on the situation in Xinjiang was held in the German parliament last Thursday.
China’s ambassador to Berlin expressed Beijing’s “profound discontent” and put in an official protest following the “blatant interference” in its “domestic affairs.”