The camera gives the view from the helicopter as it swoops down on the smoking ruins of an Afghan village. Soviet soldiers parachute from the door one by one.

As told by a breathless correspondent, the Soviet troops were asked in after the village was bombarded by dushmanis, or CIA-backed "bandits," crossing the border from Pakistan.

The news clip ends with an interview of a young Soviet political commissar, who lists the day's heroes and promises that he and his men will "carry out their internationalist duty until the end."

The dramatic rendition on Soviet television screens earlier this month contrasted with the usual bland mix on the 9 p.m. news. The decision to increase coverage of Afghanistan is seen by some western observers as a sign that the Soviet government is preparing its people for a drawn-out war.

Now in its sixth year, and with Soviet casualties estimated at a minimum of 10,000, the war shows no sign of ending soon. Reports from Kabul say the Soviets are expanding their network of garrisons outside the Afghan capital, and diplomatic efforts this summer to find a political solution apparently ended in impasse.

In recent months, the Soviet media have locked onto certain themes seemingly to solidify support for the war: the role of the Soviet soldier is glorified and the defense of Afghanistan is subtly linked to the defense of the Soviet motherland.

But most Soviets seem to see the new openness about Afghanistan as a belated recognition by the government that the people feel entitled to know about the war.

"People want to know what is going on there. It's a war and our soldiers are fighting in it," said a Muscovite.

Still, for most Soviet citizens, Afghanistan is too distant to be a burning political issue. The odds of a soldier serving in Afghanistan are still relatively small. An estimated 105,000 Soviet troops are in Afghanistan, out of a total Soviet military force of 5 million.

And in a country where the government media filter all information, few probably doubt the insistence that the Soviets were invited in by the Afghan government to defend against attacks by agents of imperialist forces.

In a recent survey by the U.S.-funded Radio Liberty of a small sample of Soviets traveling in the West, one half of the respondents were ambivalent on Afghanistan, while one quarter disapproved of their government's policy.

The depiction of battle scenes has supplemented what people knew before by word of mouth about the brutality of the fighting. Draft evasion is not officially acknowledged as a problem, but the Communist Party newspaper Pravda recently warned against "instances of lapsed vigilance and pacifist trends."

The government, after tightening up on academic deferrals, has issued new decrees toughening up the code on registration for the draft.

Still there are no signs that the government is troubled by the kind of doubt in its policy that dogged Washington during the Vietnam War.

Nor are the occasional two-minute news segments from Afghanistan -- four have appeared this summer -- likely to spark the kind of outrage in family living rooms that fueled the antiwar movement in the United States.

The film footage has shown action -- rolling tanks, men throwing hand grenades -- and interviews with Afghan pilots and Soviet officers, but not the agony of battle. Bodies of dead rebels were shown in one scene used in a political documentary on the Afghan revolution, but a closer look showed that live actors staged the scene.

Part of the explanation for the new coverage is the assignment to Kabul of a new reporter, who has added a touch of on-the-scene drama to his reports.

Although the media play gives a carefully selected view of the war, glorifying the Soviet role, it is more than people are used to. "Usually they just read the news, or show the harvest in Kazakhstan. This is new," said a Soviet viewer.

In the early years, when official treatment of the war was muted, the silence was viewed by those veterans who did serve and their families as a painful slight.

In a letter to a newspaper more than a year ago, a young soldier complained: "I am amazed at how little coverage we who serve in Afghanistan get in your paper. After all, we are risking our lives on behalf of our country."

A shift in the Soviet press' treatment of events in Afghanistan started a year ago. The fighting, which until then had involved "a limited contingent of Soviet soldiers" performing "an internationalist duty" in helping defeat imperialist-funded bandits, became a war.

Like other wars, this one has begun to develop its heroes and its legends, its brave women on the home front and its veterans with their special privileges.

Last winter, reports of the exploits of young soldiers began to appear more frequently. The military newspaper Red Star began printing front-page stories about medals and honors -- including the rare Hero of the Soviet Union -- awarded to veterans of the Afghan war.

The Soviet media built up a cult around a 20-year-old Byelorussian farm boy who in the winter of 1984 sacrificed his life by blowing up himself and a group of enemy "bandits." A song was written about Sgt. Nikolai Chepik, his home village put up a bronze bust and the school there named a room in his honor.

And in one paper, a young soldier was lauded for rushing at the enemy with a machine gun and hand grenades, braving certain death, to save his comrades. Such heroism won Suleiman Khatchukayev the Order of Lenin posthumously -- and also served to show that Soviet Moslems are taking part in the war, despite western reports to the contrary.

The newspaper Soviet Russia gave Khatchukayev's mother the key lines: "My grief is boundless but I can look people straight in the eyes. A mother bears her sons for the motherland, and she leads them not to disgrace, but to glory."

The other evening on the news, the camera panned across boxes of supplies used by the dushmanis, zeroing in on lettering in Chinese and in the Roman alphabet -- "the true facts about who is supplying the dushmanis to carry out this brutal war."

Whether the war is accepted or supported by a majority of people is difficult to say. Some reports say there have been signs of opposition in non-Russian areas of the Soviet Union, but these are hard to verify.

A motorist recently witnessed a scene at a gas station suggesting that despite the efforts of the media, Soviet people have not universally accepted Afghanistan as a war of heroes manning the first barricades for the defense of the motherland.

According to a second-hand account, a young man who went to the head of the line for gas was booed by the people behind.

"What gives you the right?" asked one irate motorist.

"I am a veteran," answered the young man.

"That's impossible. You're too young."

"I am a veteran from Afghanistan," he insisted.

"Go on," came the answer. "That's not a real war."

Despite the rebuke, the young man took first place in line, as was his right.