Five Soviet Army Deserters Now In Canada
OTTAWA (AP) _ Five Soviet army deserters have been brought to Canada in a secret government mission after being held captive by Afghan rebels for about three years, newspapers reported Saturday.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney confirmed that the five were ″safe and sound″ in Canada, but said no further information would be released until later this week.
The men were taken to a Canadian armed forces base in Ontario for debriefing, The Whig-Standard newspaper of Kingston, Ont., quoted unidentified sources as saying. The sources said the men were in good health.
The soldiers were identified as Sergei Busov, 22, a driver-mechanic; Nikolai Golovin, 23, an electrician; Igor Kovalchuk, 26, an electrician; Vladislav Naumov, 24, a paratrooper; and Vadim Plotnikov, 21, a demolition expert.
Officials said representatives of Canada’s External Affairs Department would speak to the Soviet Embassy about the secret mission.
The five men were flown to Canada on Thursday after being released in two groups and united in Pakistan, The Whig-Standard said.
A sixth man was too far inside Afghanistan and could not be rescued, said The Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper.
Efforts to bring six Soviet deserters to Canada began in July 1984 when Toronto lawyer Serge Jusyp met several of the deserters in Afghanistan.
Jusyp, who was acting on behalf of the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Toronto, got rebel leaders to agree to release the men if Canada offered the deserters asylym.
An attempt to get the men out in October 1984 failed because Canadian government officials couldn’t reach the men to check their identities and conduct medical tests, officials said.
In April, reporters for The Whig-Standard entered Afghanistan and interviewed the asylum-seekers. The Canadian government was criticized in the House of Commons for failing to rescue them.
The Whig-Standard said two of the men were taken to a safe house in Pakistan, picked up by intermediaries Thursday morning and driven to another location where they met with Canadian representatives.
The other three were also released into the custody of a people working on behalf of Canada, the newspaper said. The two groups were united and left aboard a flight from Pakistan on Thursday.
Bob Mykytiuk, president of the Canadian-Ukrainian Immigration Aid Society, said the soldiers will be brought to Toronto after debriefing, and placed with families.
Sources said the soldiers cooperated with their captors by giving them information about Soviet troop strength, tactics and training techniques.
About 115,000 Soviet troops are in Afghanistan to aid the communist government fight a nationwide Islamic insurgency. The Afghan rebels operate from bases in Pakistan along the Afhgan border.
The defector Naumov was ″extremely bitter over the lies he was told of the war and being dragged off to fight,″ Jusyp said in an earlier interview.
The attorney said the soldiers would face execution if they returned to the Soviet Union.