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Russian pilot presumed dead found alive 30 years later in Afghanistan: ‘It’s very astonishing’

FILE -- 1979, Three armed Soviet Army soldiers serving in the Afghan Civil War. .
FILE -- 1979, Three armed Soviet Army soldiers serving in the Afghan Civil War. . Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

A Russian pilot believed to have been shot down and killed 30 years ago during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has been found alive and wants to come home, according to Russian military officials.

“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.

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The pilot, who has not been named because of confidentiality reasons, was thought to have been shot down in a plane in 1987 and is likely in his 60s, according to Vyacheslav Kalinin, deputy head of Battle Brotherhood, a Russian veterans’ organization.

Kalinin also suggested the pilot could be in Pakistan, where Afghanistan had camps for prisoners of war.

The Soviet-Afghanistan war took place between 1979 and 1989. During that time, RIA Novosti reported that 125 Soviet planes were shot down in Afghanistan. When Soviet troops pulled out in 1989, around 300 soldiers were missing.

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Since then, around 30 have been found and most have returned to their home countries.

In 2013, another Russian soldier who had disappeared and was presumed dead during the Soviet-Afghan war was found living in Afghanistan, according to the Guardian.

Bakhretdin Khakimov was last seen in September 1980. Then 20 years old, he was seriously wounded during a battle and presumed dead.

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According to officials, local residents rescued Khakimov from the battlefield and treated his wounds with herbs. The Soviet soldier then opted to remain in Afghanistan.

“I stayed in Afghanistan because Afghans are very kind and hospitable people,” he told AFP in 2013.

— With files from AFP