A Russian pilot believed to have been shot down and killed more than three decades ago in Afghanistan has reportedly been found alive.
The man – named by some outlets as Sergei Pantelyuk – went missing in 1987 after taking off from a base north of Kabul during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
“He is still alive. It’s very astonishing. Now he needs help,” Valery Vostrotin, the head of the Russian paratroopers union told RIA Novosti state news agency on Friday.
The AFP reports Pantelyuk, now aged in his 60s, is believed to be living in Pakistan, where Afghanistan had camps for prisoners of war, and wants to return to his homeland.
The Moscow Times quotes Vyacheslav Kalinin, a senior member of the Boyevoye Bratstvo organisation: “What’s surprising isn’t even that the pilot stayed alive after his aircraft was shot down by the Mujahideen, but the fact we haven’t received any information from him for decades.”
The newspaper cites official figures which state 417 Soviet soldiers were declared missing or prisoners of war in the conflict, that saw over 15,000 Soviety military losses.
Russian MP Viktor Vodolatsky told news agency TASS that Russia is in talks with US representatives in Pakistan to confirm the pilot’s story and “provide assistance and support for his return to his friends and relatives.”
His daughter Larisa Pantelyuk, born shortly before her father went missing, told Komsomolskaya Pravda: “My mom’s hair went grey in an instant when she learned that my dad went missing in Afghanistan. She never married again and kept waiting for him.”
More than one million civilians were killed in the nine-year conflict, as well as 90,000 Mujahideen fighters and 18,000 Afghan troops.