Russia remembered the 25th anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan with low-key ceremonies as the country tries to forget its failed military adventure.
On February 15th 1989, the last Soviet army column crossed from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan ending nine years of massive military involvement that failed to contain the Islamist insurgency in the strategically situated Central Asian state.
Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu set the tone for numerous memorial meetings across the country by praising Afghan veterans as “true patriots,” but refusing to pass a judgement on the war, which he said is remembered with “mixed” feelings.
According to Mr Shoigu, more than 14,000 Soviet soldiers died and about 50,000 were wounded in Afghanistan.
A recent poll conducted by the independent Levada centre found that 68 percent of Russians do not think the Soviet Union should have got militarily involved in Afghanistan, while 44 percent think it was a criminal venture.
The Russian Defence Ministry rejected a call from the Afghan Veterans Union to revise the Soviet Parliament’s condemnation of the war.
Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov said it would be “inappropriate” to give a “political assessment” to the war today, a quarter of a century later.
President Vladimir Putin has made no statement on the Afghan war anniversary, but three years ago he said in an interview the Soviet war in Afghanistan was a “mistake.”
The Taliban marked the Soviet withdrawal anniversary, which is a national holiday in Afghanistan, with a triumphant statement that likened the ongoing drawdown of the NATO forces to the “escape” of the Soviet “invaders.”
“Today America is facing the same fate as the former Soviets and trying to escape from our country,” the Taliban said in a statement emailed to reporters on Saturday.