Page last updated at 18:54 GMT, Sunday, 15 February 2009

In pictures: Russia's Afghan veterans

Russian veterans march past a tank during a commemoration rally on Polonnaya hill in Moscow

Veterans of the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan have been marking the 20th anniversary of the army's pull-out from the country.

A mother mourns her son at his gravestone in a cemetery outside Minsk, Belarus.

About 15,000 Soviet soldiers were killed and many more were wounded in the 10-year war.

Veterans of the Afghan war make a toast with vodka in Vladikavkaz, in North Ossetia

The troops were ordered in to bolster the struggling communist government there against an Islamic insurgency.

Cadets hold photos of Soviet soldiers killed in Afghanistan during a memorial service in Minsk, Belarus

The Soviet army became bogged down in a costly war against mujahideen rebels supplied with money and arms from the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Belarus soldiers fire a salute in remembrance of Soviet soldiers killed in the Afghan war at Chizhovskoe cemetery outside Minsk

The Soviet Union collapsed within a couple of years of the army's withdrawal from Afghanistan, and veterans found themselves living in a number of different countries.

Veterans of the Afghan war at a memorial rally on Polonnaya hill in Moscow

The war left Afghanistan in ruins with millions of people displaced. Seven years after the Soviet withdrawal, the Taleban took power in Afghanistan.

Afghan war veterans lay flowers at a monument in Vladikavkaz, in North Ossetia

Veterans of the Soviet war see lessons for the US-led Nato forces in their own attempts to bolster Afghanistan's government against an Islamic insurgency.

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