He had disappeared during the Soviet-Afghan War. It was assumed that the war claimed his life. Surprisingly, he is still alive and wants to return to home.
Head of the Russian Paratroopers’ Union Valery Vostrotin has confirmed the news, saying: “He is still alive. It’s very astonishing. Now, he needs help.” However, Vostrotin didn’t reveal the name of the Russian pilot for the sake of privacy. Deputy Head of a Russian veterans’ organisation Vyacheslav Kalinin, too, said that the Afghan guerrillas might have shot down the pilot’s plane during the Soviet invasion of the South Asian country three decades ago. He stressed that the pilot – currently in his 60s – could be in Pakistan, as Afghanistan had set up camps for prisoners of war in the neighbouring country.
An Afghan daily reported earlier this week that only one Russian fighter jet was shot down in 1987 and the pilot was Sergei Pantelyuk. According to the daily, Pantelyuk was from the Rostov region in southern Russia and his mother and sister are still alive. Meanwhile, the ‘Komsomolskaya Pravda’ daily reported that it traced Pantelyuk’s 31-year-old daughter, who was born just months before her father went missing. However, it is not clear whether Pantelyuk is the missing pilot.
Sergei Pantelyuk & his daughter
A total of 125 Soviet aircraft were shot down during the 1979-89 Soviet-Afghan War and around 300 soldiers were listed as missing. Since 1989, Russia has found 30 pilots and all of them have returned to their home countries. Some others decided to stay back in Afghanistan. One of them is Red Army conscript Bakhretdin Khakimov.
Presumed dead by Soviet chiefs, Khakimov was rescued and cared for by locals. Later, he adopted an Afghan name – Sheikh Abdullah, tied knot with a local woman and started practising herbal medicine in the western Afghan province of Herat (after his wife’s demise). The ethnic Uzbek said: “Afghans are very kind and hospitable people. So, I decided to stay here in this country.”
Khakimov – currently serving as a caretaker of a museum celebrating the jihadists’ victory over the Red Army – further said that he would never return to Russia.
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