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Russia seeks to vindicate Afghan war, 30 years after pullout

MOSCOW: Soviet government themselves condemned the united states's bloody career of Afghanistan, but 30 years later some in Vladimir Putin's Russia are coming to see the operation in a more positive mild.

After a decade of military intervention to reinforce Kabul's embattled Communist government against Islamist warring parties, the united states in the end pulled out its last gadgets on On February 15, 1989.

The withdrawal, ordered through Soviet chief Mikhail Gorbachev, used to be a humiliating defeat for the Union and helped lead to its cave in.

Mikhail Kozhukhov, who lined the war as a correspondent for the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, remembered how the final Russian troops left without pleasure or bitterness.

"The soldiers were dreaming only of one thing: getting home safe and sound," Kozhukhov, now 62, informed AFP.

The reporter remembered crossing the "Friendship Bridge" around the Amu Darya river setting apart Afghanistan from then-Soviet Uzbekistan within the second-last armoured car of the last Soviet convoy, flying pink flags.

One of the armoured cars carried the frame of 20-year-old Igor Lyakhovich, who used to be killed an afternoon previous and is officially the last of greater than 14,000 Soviet struggle useless in a war that killed more than one million Afghans.

"Along the route you could see the 'ghosts' who had come down from the mountains to watch our retreat from a distance," said Kozhukhov, using a Russian term for elusive Afghan partisans.

"The eyes of the inhabitants of the snowy village were full of hate or spite because they were being left to the mercy of fate," Kozhukhov said.

The journalist, who in short served as Putin's press secretary in 1999 and 2000, says that "the intervention in Afghanistan was always a tragic and senseless escapade."

The intervention used to be extraordinarily unpopular with the Soviet public and used to be officially condemned in 1989 on the top of Gorbachev's coverage of "glasnost", or transparency.

But this judgement is now being reassessed, beneath drive from veterans.

Putin in 2015 seemed to back the intervention, pronouncing that the Soviet management used to be trying to confront "real threats" although he said "there were many mistakes."

In late January, Russia's parliamentary defence committee backed a draft answer pronouncing that "the moral and political condemnation of the decision to send in Soviet troops" used to be "against the principles of historical justice."

The Soviet troops helped the Afghan government combat "terrorist and extremist groups" and curbed the rising security danger facing the united states, the draft answer says.

The draft answer, however, has but to be voted on in full consultation, reflecting the government' reluctance formally to revisit this irritating episode.

Historian Irina Shcherbakova of Memorial rights crew says that amid heightened tensions with Western powers in recent times, "Russia is reviving its Soviet past to justify its new opposition to the West."

For political analyst Pyotr Akopov from pro-Kremlin web site Vzglyad, "the ex-combatants and the whole of Russian society need vindication for this war."

"We have nothing to apologise for, we didn't use napalm... and we even managed to leave Afghanistan with our supporters replacing us, which the Americans have never managed to do."

Alexander Kovalyov, president of the association of ex-combatants for the CIS region including maximum ex-Soviet countries, insists the invasion of Afghanistan used to be justified and says Gorbachev "betrayed all the dead" through condemning it.

"Without our troops, the Americans would have installed their missiles to target Moscow," he said.

"Gorbachev was right to finish this war but we should have kept on supporting Kabul with the necessary arms for it to resist," said Kovalyov, who served as a deputy commander in charge of political indoctrination of an army regiment sent in to secure the withdrawal.

Konstantin Volkov went to Afghanistan in late 1981 as a conscript on the age of 17, full of enthusiasm after following Soviet media reports.

He used to be chargeable for radio communications, collaborating in 70 missions and used to be embellished for intercepting correspondence between the Mujahideen.

Demobilised in 1983 in just right physical well being, he says the struggle haunted his goals for 15 years.

He used to be ordained as a Russian Orthodox priest and is now Father Konstantin. At his church in a village outside Moscow, around 30 of his fellow "Afghans" (Soviet veterans) accumulate every February 15.

"I suggest to my former comrades that they express penitence and don't think any more about what happened in that war," he informed AFP.

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