MOSCOW, April 5 (Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti) – The Soviet soldier found in Afghanistan after 33 years on a Missing in Action list said it is too late for him to return to his native country, a spokesman for a Soviet veteran organization told RIA Novosti on Friday.
Bakhredtin Khakimov, who served in army intelligence, was seriously injured in 1980 in a skirmish between Soviet troops in Afghanistan and the local resistance.
However, his life was saved by a local village elder and traditional healer, who nurtured the Uzbekistan native back to health, took him under his wing and taught him the craft of healing.
Khakimov’s fate was unknown to his comrades until February, when a search party from the nonprofit Moscow-based Warriors-Internationalists Affairs Committee traced him to his current residence in the Shindand District.
The soldier-turned-healer spoke to his relatives for the first time in 33 years by telephone on Thursday in the Afghan city of Herat, said the committee’s spokesman, fellow veteran Alexander Lavrentyev.
Khakimov was saddened to learn his mother was dead, and close to tears when he was presented with a surprise pre-recorded video message from his brother in Uzbekistan, Lavrentyev said by telephone from Kabul.
But Khakimov said he is not coming home.
“I have spent most of my life here, there’s nothing to talk about,” Lavrentyev cited the ex-soldier as saying.
Khakimov still has a hand tic and a metal plate in his skull from his injuries.
Afghani news agency Pajhwok cited Khakimov as saying he wants to “live and die” in the country.
“I was rescued and nurtured back to health by the Afghanis, and I want to serve these people all my life. I don’t want to go back to a country that deceived me and sent me to fight in this unlawful war in Afghanistan,” Khakimov was cited as saying in Farsi.
But Lavrentyev said Khakimov was still happy to be contacted by his relatives and former comrades, and did not let the other veteran go after the end of their meeting in Herat without a long hug.
The Soviet Union lost about 15,000 of the 600,000 soldiers it sent to Afghanistan during the invasion, which lasted from 1979 to 1989. Another 263 are still on the missing list, with the Warriors-Internationalists Affairs Committee sending out several search expeditions a year to establish their whereabouts or find their graves.