​Russian pilot returns home after 1.5 years as Taliban captive

An emotional scene at the airport is not uncommon – but one Russian pilot had an extra special reason to celebrate. Pavel Petrenko was finally reunited with his family after returning home from Afghanistan, where he spent 19 months as a Taliban captive.

Petrenko, who arrived at the airport as a haggard figure with a long white beard, was welcomed with his crying family, who spent the past 1.5 years in suspense and fearing for his life.

The Russian pilot was captured by the Taliban in April last year after making an emergency landing of his MI8 helicopter. Nine others were on board with him – seven construction workers from Turkey, an Afghan, and a Kyrgyz pilot – who were taken but released within months.

“If they moved us, they blindfolded us, they didn’t say who they were. Once they allowed me to call my wife, it happened exactly a year ago. But I was more or less aware of what was happening in the world after they gave me a radio. I’m happy it’s all over now. Thank God,” Petrenko told RT.

Russian pilot of the Mi-8 helicopter Pavel Petrenko, released from Taliban captivity in Afghanistan, at the Sheremetyevo airport. (RIA Novosti/Grigoriy Sisoev)

The pilot said that his release was postponed several times. He was supposed to have been released in April, but that date was always extended.

“When [they] came to release me, I couldn’t believe it until I met the representatives from the embassy,” he said.

He added that he was feeling well, and thanked the Russian authorities for aiding his release.

However, the veteran pilot said that after such an experience, he will not fly again.

“I’m giving up flying. I’ve been a pilot for 39 years and I think that’s enough now,” he said.