If one were to judge only by news accounts from the front, one of the outstanding figures in the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan would have to be a quadruped recruit from Gorki named Amur.
Not a single human participant in the Afghan war has been accorded so much press attention as Amur, a German shepherd who was honorably discharged not long ago after serving for 18 months as an auxiliary sapper with the Soviet forces.
While most Soviet war correspondence is written in a sanitized way to suggest that about 100,000 Soviet troops are merely conducting war exercises in Afghanistan, Amur's story has been presented as one of great hardship and constant danger in an inhospitable land where savage rebel resistance is making the lives of both men and animals a dog's life.
The two tales that have appeared about Amur's heroic deeds in Afghanistan may have been published to meet a growing demand for more candid accounts about the fighting. After more than 3 1/2 years, hundreds of thousands of Soviet youths have been rotated in and out of Afghanistan. There are rumors about internal discontent with the war as the number of Soviet casualties grows.
Amur's handler, a soldier named Gennady Motilykov, was gravely injured in action and is now an invalid. Amur, however, stayed on in Afghanistan for another six months and gained several military decorations, including "a gold service medal," according to the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Amur, we are told, frequently used his body to shield his 20-year-old master from bullets, and also kept him warm during freezing nights when they slept together in the Afghan mountains. The master sought to protect his animal. They saved each other's lives at least 400 times, Gennady recalled.
But Amur is credited with saving numerous other lives in Gennady's brigade. He was able to spot Italian-made plastic mines instantly "although they contain only seven grams of metal." Moreover, Amur displayed an uncanny sense for danger.
The sapper dogs are trained to discover mines and then move away from them to let soldiers disarm the devices. The paper reported that on one occasion all the other dogs followed this procedure. Amur, however, refused to move from the spot. Gennady knew that this meant the existence of an additional danger, which turned out to be two threads linked to large explosive devices hidden nearby.
Just how Gennady was injured is not related in the two long stories. But he must have been seriously disfigured because his mother, visiting him in a hospital, could not recognize him.
A SUMMIT meeting of Communist potentates is totally unlike such events in the West. The meeting of top Communist Party, government and military leaders of the seven Warsaw Pact countries last week illuminates the problems involved in reporting from this secretive capital.
To begin with, the Central Committee's information department did not feel the need to inform anyone that the summit was to be held June 28, a Tuesday. Nor did Tass report on the arrival Monday of the six visiting delegations, although the agency's normal daily diet of such comings and goings is extensive.
But as is usual in such cases, foreign journalists had picked up a rumor the previous week that a summit was to be held June 28, although nobody in an official position could confirm it.
It is difficult for someone who takes for granted the ease of access to people in government in Washington to grasp the total lack of such access in Moscow. It is not possible to have a private word with, say, the desk officer at the Foreign Ministry. To invite a subcabinet official to lunch would probably give him a coronary.
Hence, looking into a rumor requires basic detective skills and lots of time.
The first thing one does is make a few phone calls or hang around the bleak yard of the foreigners' compound waiting for Romanian acquaintances to pass. This time even the Romanians could not say anything about a summit, although their president, Nicolae Ceausescu, was due to arrive only a few hours later. One attempts to ask an East German neighbor, but this seems as bizarre an act as phoning the Kremlin.
Monday morning, however, there was a noticeable increase in the number of black automobiles rushing past the compound. Shortly after noon, the hot tip that something unusual was going on came from an irate wife who reported that traffic on Leninski Avenue was halted.
When correspondents arrived they found hundreds of uniformed police deployed on both sides of the avenue. It turned out that they were posted all along the avenue and on out to the VIP Vnukovo 2 Airport, about 15 miles from the city center.
There also were many police along the street atop the Lenin Hills, where government villas stand. A few weeks ago workers were repairing the high wall around these villas, but no one had assigned any importance to their activity. Now it seemed that the housing was being spruced up for the visiting dignitaries.
At the Foreign Ministry press center scores of Soviet and foreign journalists were attending a movie industry press conference. Nobody there seemed to expect any summit meeting. A Soviet journalist who works for a major Moscow newspaper said he had heard something about a Warsaw Pact summit. His explanation only added to the frustration. He had heard it on a British Broadcasting Corp. newscast.
What remained as the best alternative was to get in the car and drive down Leninski Avenue to the airport and back again.
By midafternoon, the road was in a high state of readiness, with huge black Zil limousines barreling along at 90 miles an hour. The Zil is a car used by Politburo members and a few other officials of the highest rank. Another motorcade of Zils rushed by, accompanied by Super Chaikas, the automobile used by Cabinet ministers and other high officials.
Cruising at 35 miles an hour, journalists discovered two conclusive signs that someone important was arriving in Moscow. The first was the black VIP ambulance, a Zil resembling a hearse, heading toward the airport. The other was a military communication vehicle with impressive antennas and other gear on its top.
During this drive, the car radio announced that the Soviet Union had just launched a two-man crew into space. For connoisseurs of Kremlinology, this was the crucial clue that a summit would indeed take place, since Soviet leaders like to have space spectaculars coincide with important political events.
Late Monday night, a friendly Hungarian caught in the yard confirmed in a whisper that his leader, Janos Kadar, had arrived, adding, "Please do not ask me anything else; I cannot tell you." A few minutes later wire services reported from Bucharest that Ceausescu had left for Moscow.
Not until 9 p.m. Tuesday did the Soviets announce that the Eastern European leaders were in Moscow and had met under the chairmanship of Soviet President Yuri Andropov. By then the summit was over and Tass had begun distributing the text of a joint communique.