A mixture of pride and painful memories were evoked in Moscow on Sunday as Russia marked the 20th anniversary of the the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Veterans joined officials in a wreath-laying ceremony commemorating the 15,000 soldiers who died in the decade-long war. Elsewhere in the city there was an emotional reunion of former soldiers, staging their own unofficial tribute. Moscow sent its forces into Afghanistan to support a pro-Kremlin government that was battling Muslim guerrillas. It was the Red Army’s last great campaign of the Soviet era. One former soldier said: “That we went there was a political mistake… perhaps. But it doesn’t lessen the deeds of those who did their duty for their country.” With the US among the backers of the Mujihadeen, Afghanistan soon became a theatre of the Cold War. By the time the Kremlin decided it could not win, a million Afghans had been killed and 5 million displaced. Today, it is the US and its allies that are mired in conflict in the country.