Russia marks 25th anniversary of the end of war in Afghanistan by praising its veterans

Russia's defense minister has praised veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan as "true patriots" on the 25th anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal.

Sergei Shoigu said in a statement marking Saturday's anniversary that Soviet soldiers' heroism in the war was part "of the best combat traditions of the Motherland." He added that the experience has proven useful for counter-terrorism and peacekeeping duties.

The Soviet invasion began on Dec. 25, 1979 and ended when the last units withdrew on Feb. 15, 1989. On Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's initiative, the Soviet parliament recognized that the Afghan war was a mistake. According to Shoigu, more than 14,000 Soviet soldiers died and about 50,000 were wounded.

The government of Soviet-backed Najibullah fell in April 1992 after Moscow withdrew support following the 1991 Soviet collapse.