HERAT -- A mass grave discovered in Ukraine has refreshed Afghans' memories of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Ukrainian forces who took back the area around their capital, Kyiv, in early April found hundreds of civilians' bodies in the suburb of Bucha. Russian troops invaded Ukraine February 24 but rapidly encountered fierce resistance and had to retreat from the area around Kyiv.
Afghans have endured war for more than 40 years, including the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation, and empathise with Ukrainians.
Ten known mass graves lie near the mountains in the northern part of Herat city, where hundreds of civilians were massacred and buried by Soviet troops.
The collection of mass graves is locally known as the Unknown Martyrs' Graveyard. Elderly Herat residents with terrible memories of the Soviet occupation said the Russians had no mercy for anyone and buried many of their opponents alive.
Abdul Baqi Aslami, 67, who manages the Unknown Martyrs' Graveyard, served in the Afghan army during the Soviet occupation.
He said he repeatedly saw Soviet troops shooting civilians or even burying them alive.
Soldiers who executed Afghan civilians at night in the mountains north of Herat city would bury them in mass graves.
"The Russians brought Afghans in and killed them collectively," he said. "They dug trenches with a bulldozer and filled them with corpses."
No one or nothing was off limits.
"The Russians targeted and killed educated people, women, men, the elderly, children, religious scholars and students," Aslami said.
"They killed civilians and animals, and destroyed everything including orchards and farm fields."
Everywhere the Russians went across Afghanistan, they terrorised residents by bombing and planting mines, he said.
The atrocities committed by Soviet troops in Afghanistan are now being repeated by the Russian troops in Ukraine, Aslami said.
Many families still remember Soviet atrocities and grieve their lost loved ones, more than four decades after the Kremlin invaded their country.
Abdul Hakim, 102, a resident of Shindand district, Herat province, wept as he shared his memories.
Soviet troops killed his three sons and two grandchildren, he said.
"Soviet troops killed 18 people in our village and took many others, including the elderly and the educated, who never made it back," he said. "We lost most of our youth in the fight against the Russians."
"The Russians killed more than 10,000 people in Shindand district alone," he said. "We held funeral services every day. I can hardly remember a day when there was no funeral service or mourning ceremony in our district."
Abdul Wahab, 70, a resident of Herat city, said a Soviet air strike wiped out 11 members of his family in their home.
"My brother and I are the two surviving members of the family," he said. "My parents, sisters and other brothers were all martyred on the spot."
"I cannot forget that dreadful incident even for a single day," Abdul Wahab said, weeping. "The Russians are very savage and rapacious and have no mercy on anyone."
Today's Russia is no different from the former Soviet Union, he said, and there is no difference in their atrocities and oppression.
"As I follow the latest Russian atrocities in Ukraine through the media, it reminds me of the massacre of Afghans."
Now the Russians are committing the same crimes in Ukraine, he said.
'Most notorious force'
Several civil society activists and Herat residents called Russia a "cruel giant" and condemned the destruction of infrastructure and residential buildings in Ukrainian cities and the massacre of civilians by Russian invaders.
The Russians have massacred civilians wherever they carried out aggression, they said.
"I have seen the bodies of handcuffed Ukrainians on the roads in media reports. An unarmed and handcuffed person cannot pose any threat and does not deserve to be shot and murdered so ruthlessly," said Jamshed Ataee, a civil society activist in Herat city.
"What is the justification for massacring children and women who have no role in the war?" he asked.
The Russian army is the most notorious force in the world, said Ataee.
Wherever Russians enter and invade, a stream of blood will follow, said Ghulam Sakhi Niazi, a resident of Herat city.
"The crimes of the Russians in Ukraine and Afghanistan ... must go down in history as a disgrace to humanity," he said.