The Red army bid farewell to Kabul at a ceremony Monday, but some Soviet soldiers stayed behind.
At an airport ceremony staged for 150 foreign journalists , Lt. Col. Pytor Sardarchuk praised 15 young paratroopers who stood in front of their An-12 transport plane, warmed by fur hats and padded, olive green uniforms decorated with Afghan medals."We have helped Afghanistan create order and provided economic supplies and other goods. Now you are leaving Afghan soil and I want to say thank you very much for your service and to wish you all the best, happiness and health and a safe return home," he said.
Capt. Alexander Yhadan added, "The medals on our chest - Afghan medals - bear witness to what we have accomplished. We would like to hope that there will be peace in Afghanistan and that the people of Afghanistan will remember us fondly."
At least one departing soldier, a 20-year-old, questioned those accomplishments.
I think it could have been done peacefully. I think it (Soviet intervention) was all a big mistake," he said in answer to a question as he boarded the plane, which took off for Tashkent.> The paratroopers waved as their aircraft taxied down the runway and climbed in a tight spiral above mountains spouting flares to deflect heat-seeking missiles fired by Moslem guerrillas trying to overthrow the Marxist government. About 450 Soviet soldiers quietly left the besieged capital during a snowstorm Sunday.
Sardarchuk said remaining troops are overseeing the Soviet food airlift and will be gone by Wednesday, the U.N.-negotiated deadline for the last Soviet soldiers to leave Afghanistan. The Soviets intervened to bolster the Afghan army in 1979.
Sardarchuk refused to say how many soldiers stayed behind after Monday's ceremony, which had been billed as the departure of the last Soviet soldiers.
After the ceremony, Soviet troops manned armored personnel carriers posted around the military section of Kabul airport and along the perimeter of the facility.
"It's a deception of sorts," said a Soviet diplomat who asked not to be identified by name. He insisted the remaining Soviet troops would be gone by Wednesday.