Missing Soviet Soldier, Bakhretdin Khakimov, Found Living In Afghanistan 33 Years After Invasion

Missing War Vet Found 33 Years Later

A war veteran who disappeared during the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has been found -- 33 years later.

According to a HuffPost translation of Russian-language news service RIA Novosti, the missing Soviet soldier, Bakhretdin Khakimov, lived a semi-nomadic life in Afghanistan during the three decades after he was wounded in battle. Adopting the name Sheikh Abdullah, the war vet was recently found living with locals in Herat, a province in western Afghanistan.

Russia's Veterans Committee tracked down Abdullah after a yearlong search in the region. The Committee learned that, following his rescue by locals shortly after the 1980 invasion, the soldier changed his name and took up a career as an herbal practitioner.

Seeking to discover the fate of the 265 Soviet soliders who went missing during the invasion, Russian officials have searched for the veterans, many of whom -- like Abdullah -- are believed to have found a new life in Afghanistan.

"I am confident some are still alive, and the problem is that they are afraid to contact us," Alexander Lavrentyev, vice president of the Veterans Committee, told reporters in October, according to the New York Times.

Lavrentyev explained that missing veterans who are still alive may fear retribution for desertion during the war, even though most former Soviet states have passed laws that would grant them immunity.

Though Abdullah was sought out, he's not the only Soviet soldier, deemed missing in action, who has taken up a life in Afghanistan. In 2006, Ukrainian solider Gennady Tseuma came forward and explained how he started a new life among the Afghans after he was taken prisoner by mujahedeen fighters.

"They said, 'You have a choice. If you want to live, become a Muslim and stay here. If you don't, we'll kill you.' I agreed to cooperate," Tseuma, who adopted the name Nik Mohammed, recalled, according to NPR.

Following their success in finding Abdullah, officials from the Veterans Committee plan to continue the search for Soviet war veterans until all are tracked down.

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