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Moldova Marks Afghan War Veterans Day For First Time

CHISINAU -- Hundreds of Moldovan veterans of the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan marched in downtown Chisinau to remember their comrades who died in the 1979-1989 conflict, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

The march on February 15 was the first time the day was marked in Moldova as a national holiday and the country's leaders laid flowers at a Chisinau monument dedicated to the victims of all wars.

After Moldova gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Moldovan authorities regarded the Afghan war as a mistake by Soviet leaders that was judged better to forget than to commemorate.

A member of Moldova's ruling coalition, Liberal-Democratic Party official Mihai Godea, told RFE/RL the new holiday is meaningful because "it was not the victims' fault" that the Afghan war was "unjust."

Several participants in the march in Chisinau today told RFE/RL they are happy to be finally recognized as war veterans.

Officially between 14,000 and 18,000 Soviet soldiers died during the Afghan war, although unofficial estimates put the death toll much higher. Hundreds of thousands of mujahedin died in the fighting and several hundred thousand Afghan civilians also perished in the conflict.