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    RUSSIA CELEBRATES 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF SOVIET TROOPS' WITHDRAWAL FROM AFGHANISTAN

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    VELIKY NOVGOROD/SAMARA, February 15, 2004. (RIA Novosti) -- On Sunday Russian cities celebrate the 15th anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

    The Church of St. Prince Alexander Nevsky in Veliky Novgorod will host a solemn memorial service. On May 8, 2003, memorials plaques were installed in the church listing the names of 54 Veliky Novgorod residents killed from 1979 up to the present in combats in Afghanistan, Angola, Vietnam and in the Chechen republic.

    To commemorate the anniversary 15 salutes will be fired in the Novgorod sky.

    The city traditionally honors the participants in the hostilities in Afghanistan on February 15th and on December 27th, the day when the troops were deployed in the country (in 1979).

    Today Samara will complete erection of a monument to soldiers killed in local conflicts. The center of the composition will be the figure of a soldier, the city administration reports.

    Sculptor Vladimir Obukhov has depicted a tired young soldier who no longer can hold his gun in his hands. Each detail of the figure, according to the author's thought, symbolizes the soldier's reluctance and refusal to continue the Afghan war. For example, he is bareheaded, which is against the military code of behavior. The wrinkles on his uniform are a metaphor of bonds, as the soldier was sent to war against his will.

    The first part of the monument was erected in the center of Samara in 2001. It is an ensemble of five marble columns in form of candles with carved names of 33 countries where undeclared wars have taken place. Marble stones nearby list names of Samara citizens killed in local conflicts. The list contains 463 names, 246 of which are victims of the Afghan war.

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