KYIV, Ukraine -- The brutal violence against Ukrainian civilians and military blunders have observers of the Russian invasion of Ukraine drawing comparisons with the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. In the ensuing nine years, as Afghan mujahideen defended their country from Soviet Army soldiers, more than one million Afghans died and hundreds of thousands were disabled.
A further five million or more migrated to neighbouring countries, and most of Afghanistan's infrastructure was destroyed during the fighting.
Despite the death and destruction, the Soviets withdrew, defeated, in February 1989.
Two years later, the Soviet Union collapsed.
In the present day, Friday (March 4) marked the ninth day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Russian shelling of Ukrainian cities has intensified, even as reports emerge of Russian convoys running out of fuel and troops deserting or surrendering en masse.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed or wounded, and more than 1 million Ukrainians have fled west amid a burgeoning refugee crisis.
For many observers, footage of Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilians brings to the mind the abuses that the Soviet Army committed in Afghanistan.
In that nine-year-long war, "the Soviets dealt harshly with the Mujahideen rebels and those who supported them, leveling entire villages," the Atlantic wrote in 2014.
"An estimated one million civilians were killed."
'Just like in Afghanistan'
Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday in a television address called Russia and Ukraine "one people" and vowed to defeat the "neo-Nazis" in Ukraine.
He claimed the "special operation" was proceeding as planned.
The Russians' justification for the Ukraine invasion is identical to what the Soviets said in December 1979 when the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, said Oleg Zhdanov, a military analyst who previously worked on the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces.
"Just like in Afghanistan, today the Russian soldiers are being taken for a ride, ideologically speaking. They're sure they're performing their internationalist duty. They're helping the 'brotherly' Ukrainian people build a brighter future in their country," Zhdanov told Caravanserai.
In 1978, a group of pro-Soviet Afghan military officers staged a coup. However, they were unable to make Communism palatable to the Afghan population.
Insurgents, the mujahideen, rose up against the government.
In response, the Soviet Politburo ordered a "military operation" into Afghanistan in December 1979 -- carefully avoiding the terms "war" or "invasion", just as in present day.
"I remember celebrating the deployment of the boys in the club of [my] military academy. We believed we were helping people in that faraway country build socialism," Zhdanov said.
"No one understood that it was a war and that war is invasive. Just like it is now in Ukraine."
Soviet marshal Sergey Sokolov, who was in charge of the invasion, said in 1979 that the Soviet Union would have things under control within a month.
Instead, zinc coffins euphemistically termed "Cargo 200" soon began flying back to the Soviet Union.
More than 15,000 Soviet soldiers died in Afghanistan, according to the Kremlin.
'We had no choice'
In Ukraine, growing Russian casualties are another line of comparison with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, the Russian Defence Ministry put the number of Russian troops killed in Ukraine at 498. It has not updated the total.
On Friday, the Ukrainian military put the number of combined Russian casualties at 9,166 so far.
In videos of interrogations posted by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), many Russian POWs say they had no idea where they were going.
"We were at exercises at the Kuzmin firing range for about a week. Then they gathered us together and sent us closer to the border. They told us we were going to be stationed at the border," Anton Petruk, a senior sniper whom Ukrainian soldiers captured, said in the video.
"Then suddenly we crossed it during the night. We arrived at some village. We had no choice," he said.
"If you refused to go fight when you crossed over the border, that would be treason. You can go to jail for that for 15 to 25 years. It's also insubordination, and you can do additional time for that, almost your whole life."
"I was sent to fight with a brotherly people based on a criminal order by our president," a POW named Vladislav said in the same video by phone to his mother.
"Mom, please bring me home. I don't want to be here anymore."
"Russia has revived many Soviet practices. During the Afghan war [the Soviet Union] also completely concealed the number of its losses at first," Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst and director of the Penta Centre for Political Studies, told Caravanserai.
"Then later, when those planes that the people called 'black tulips' started flying back with coffins, it became impossible to hide the deaths," he said.
"In essence we're seeing the same practice now too. In the majority of cases, the [parents] of the Russian soldiers have no clue where their children are," Fesenko said.
The catastrophic repercussions of the Afghan war could repeat themselves in Ukraine, analysts say.
One reason why the USSR withdrew its troops from Afghanistan was that the United States was helping the mujahideen, said Oleg Lesnoy, a political analyst.
"When the United States provided the mujahideen with Stinger surface-to-air missiles, the Soviet army lost its supremacy in the air," Lesnoy told Caravanserai.
An influx of foreign weapons helping Ukrainians take away Russian air supremacy would have a similar effect on the Russians' fortunes in Ukraine, he said.
"Russia will suffer unreal losses" if such aid arrives, said Lesnoy.
Although Moscow itself decided to pull its troops out of Afghanistan, it was too late to save the situation.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The Russian-backed Afghan government fell in 1992.
The cost of the war, along with low oil prices that shrank the Soviet treasury, helped doom the USSR.
The Soviet Union spent about 18 billion RUB ($24.3 billion at the exchange rate at the time) -- or more than $73 billion in today's dollars -- to fight the war from 1979 to 1986, US intelligence estimated, according to Globalsecurity.org.
In Ukraine, the first four days of the war cost Russia up to $7 billion in direct military expenses, the Centre for Economic Recovery in Kyiv estimated in a study published Monday.
On top of that, the United States and its Western allies have already imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at hobbling Russia's economy and the ability of the central bank to defend the ruble, including by closing airspace, freezing assets and excluding seven banks from the SWIFT interbank messaging network.
If Russia loses air supremacy, "Putin won't have enough people or resources to keep this war going for long," said Lesnoy.