His real name is Bakhretdin Khakimov and he is a Soviet soldier missing in action since the first months of a 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
(Original story Ria Novosti) Khakimov, an ethnic Uzbek, was tracked down two weeks ago by a search party of the Warriors-Internationalists Affairs Committee, a nonprofit, Moscow-based organization, that is still searching for a further 263 MIA Soviets.
Khakimov shortly before his disappearance in 1980
“Looking for missing soldiers is among our top priorities. And it’s a tough job,” said committee head Ruslan Aushev, who fought in Afghanistan and was president of the republic of Ingushetia in the Russian North Caucasus from 1993 to 2001.
Since its inception, the committee has discovered 29 missing Soviet soldiers alive in Afghanistan. Just 22 of whom chose to return home having been ‘found’.
Khakimov suffered severe head injures during fighting in Shindand 33 years ago, when he was still a 20-year-old draftee, but was nursed back to health by a local village elder who made a living as a healer. The healer adopted the native Samarkand and taught him the trade.
Khakimov forgot whatever Russian he knew and never tried to contact his relatives after being captured. But the former soldier – who married in Afghanistan, but is now a childless widower – was now eager to meet his relatives.
Khakimov was still luckier than many: The committee confirmed five more MIA soldiers to have been killed, and many more deaths – including of those who got blown to bits by a landmine, burned alive in tanks or aircraft, or, in at least one case, swept away by a mountain stream – can only be confirmed tentatively, Lavrentyev said.
Soviet losses in Afghanistan stood at 15,000 while a total of 600,000 Soviet soldiers served in the war, according to figures from the Soviet General Staff. By comparison, the United States, which currently has 74,000 troops in Afghanistan, lost just over 2,000 since 2001.
The best (often, their only) sources of information are the very warlords whom the Soviet troops were trying to kill in the 1980s. And surprisingly, the Mujahedin fighters who were busy killing the Soviet infidels three decades ago appear willing to help their old enemies – who were also building roads and schools in the country that they were trying to control.
“Those who were shooting at us are the only ones to have information – and they share it,” said a spokesman for the committee, “We get very good treatment. They tell us, ‘Come back, just without the firearms. We respect you,’” Lavrentyev cited the Afghanis as saying.