Soldier Found Alive After 33 Years
Soviet was living with Afghan natives
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan led to the deaths of over 15,000 men in the Red Army. Many of those missing were left behind after the war, but a commission to find the MIA soldiers found one had been living a semi-nomadic life in Herat for 33 years.
Bakhretdin Khakimov, a former Uzbek native, was injured during the early months of the invasion in 1979 and was rescued by local people. He assumed the name Sheikh Abdullah and decided not to return to Samarkand after the war. It remains unclear why Khakimov decided not to return home, but Russia’s Veterans Committee, which was responsible for tracking him down, said that many fear retribution for deserting the army although many ex-Soviet republics have passed laws that would grant these men immunity.
The Veterans Committee says it will continue searching for other soldiers missing since the war. Two hundred sixty-five are still missing and Russian officials believe many took up lives in Afghanistan.
In 2006, Ukrainian solider Gennady Tseuma came forward and explained how he started a new life among the Afghans after he was taken prisoner by mujahedeen fighters. “They said: ‘You have a choice. If you want to live, become a Muslim and stay here. If you don’t, we’ll kill you.’ I agreed to cooperate,” Tseuma, who adopted the name Nik Mohammed, recalled, according to NPR.