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Talks underway to help Soviet pilot downed in Afghanistan in 1987 return to Russia - MP

The first stage is to find out the pilot’s name and when he had been downed

ROSTOV-ON-DON, June 2. /TASS/. Russia is in talks with US representatives to confirm media reports that a Soviet pilot, who went missing in Afghanistan in 1987 after his plane was shot down, has been found and that he wants to come back home, Russian MP Viktor Vodolatsky told TASS.

The news that the man has been found alive came on Thursday from Valery Vostrotin, the chairman of the Defense Ministry’s commission for prisoners of war, interned persons and servicemen missing in action, who co-chairs the Russian-US commission for POWs and missing soldiers. A source in the Boyevoye Bratstvo [Combat Brotherhood] veterans charity international fund said Russia received information from the US colleagues dealing with searching for missing persons. Another source in the organization said the Soviet pilot may return to Russia within a year.

"Boyevoye Bratstvo and a commission of the Russian Defense Ministry, led by Maj. Gen. [Alexander] Kirillin are now holding talks with representatives of the US mission to Pakistan to confirm this information. The first stage is to find out the pilot’s name and when he had been downed and, if he really wishes to come back to Russia, to provide assistance and support for his return to the relatives and friends," said Vodolatsky, who is Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian integration and relations with compatriots.

However, the MP said it was early to say that the pilot’s name was Sergey Pantelyuk. "Several pilots were downed at that time and they are missing, there are three of them," he said, noting that the names of the two other pilots were Mikhailov and Samoilov.

The pilot’s name has not been officially revealed, the MP noted, saying that "we have to wait."

Earlier, Kommersant daily wrote citing its sources that the Soviet pilot who was found in Afghanistan is Sergey Pantelyuk, from southern Russia’s Rostov region. Senior Lieutenant Pantelyuk served in the 263rd separate reconnaissance air squadron in Afghanistan, the paper said. His Su-17 took off from the Bagram airfield on October 27, 1987 and was allegedly shot down by an air defense system, according to the report.