Thanxz to Ashley Rye for sending this one in !

IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION

Nikolai Lebedev

The son of an air force pilot, Nikolai Lebedev was born in Vaiday, Russia, in 1950. He studied engineering as well as aeronautics and astronautics at the Institute of Mechanical Engineering in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) from 1968 to 1975. He now specializes in irrigation engineering and lives with his wife and son in St Petersburg, where I first met him in 1989. Nikolai is also a journalist for the St Petersburg Evening.

Drastic changes in the political and economical life in the former Soviet Union have had some very sad conse- quences in the last few years, and this has led to considerable difficulties for UFO research, at both government and private levels. For example, because of our desperate financial circumstances, it has become prohibitive to pay for phone calls and faxes, and even to send letters to my research colleagues - especially those abroad. Nevertheless, it is essential, in my opinion, to report accurately the facts which prove that we are not alone in the universe; facts which may save the most valuable thing that people possess - their souls.

UFONAUTS ARE OBSERVING OUR COSMONAUTS

It is well known that all Russian spacecraft returning to Earth make their landings in the region of Kazakhstan. According to rumours, each landing of our Soyuz-type spacecraft has been monitored by alien spacecraft. In October 1991, for instance, the newspaper Trud reported that on the night of 9 October 1991, the day before the prearranged landing of Soyuz TM- 1 3, a disc-shaped object appeared in the sky over the town of Arkalyk.

The object emitted beams of light which crossed the sky as it headed north to south, in the direction of the calculated landing site. It is important to note Trud's comment that: '. . . As previously, the arrival of the UFO was seen by many witnesses at Arkalyk, and it was registered by the local department of internal affairs." [Emphasis added]

The actual landingtimeof SoyuzTM-13 was 6.00 a.m. on 10 October. It would be interesting to ask the crew members (A. Arczebarski, T. Aubakirov and F. Fibek) if they saw anything. But perhaps the UFO was more interested in observing the sensitive Ministry of Defence sites which are located in the region. In order to ask these questions, however, one needs permission from the General Staff of our Air Defence.

All stages of the landing of our spacecraft are strictly monitored by radar stations of the so-called 'Cosmic Troops', who use highly sophisticated radar equipment. I should also point out that situated in Arkalyk itself is the permanent base of the Emergency and Rescue Group, the main task of which is to recover our spacecraft and cosmonauts.

This group numbers many highly trained men who have at their disposal fifteen helicopters, six aircraft and five landrover-type vehicles. And, of course, this team was fully prepared for the landing of Soyuz TM-13. Unfortunately, the story about the UFO sighting appeared in only one central news- paper, without any reference to the group, and only nine days after the event.

In another case, when a spacecraft was launched from Plesetsk at about 6.00 p.m. on 2 October 1991, local UFO investigators in the region of Arkhangelsk (about 130 miles from Plesetsk) who were observing the stages of the launch with powerful optics, noticed to their amazement that, just after the separation of the first stage of the rocket booster, a UFO appeared behind it and seemed to be following it.

This was not the only UFO sighting at that time. M. Alekseev, at the Puksa railway station near Arkhangelsk, wrote to the Red Star newspaper (pub- lished by the Ministry of Defence) asking what kind of phenomenon it was that he observed on the evening of 2 October 1991. The response was made by Lieutenant- Colonel M. Arhipov, chief press officer of the Cosmic Troops, who confirmed that inhabitants in the region of Arkhangelsk may have observed some kind of 'atmo- spheric phenomenon', and he linked this with the launch of a research rocket. 'More precisely,' he explained, 'in connection with the burned-out stage of the booster rocket in a thunder cloud.'Arhipov denied that any of the observed sightings 'could be associated with the activities of aliens from space'.

Such comments do not surprise me, coming as they do from a spokesman of the Cosmic Troops.

Late in the evening of 3 August 1990, and the early part of the following morning, a ma'or UFO flap occurred in the northern area of Leningrad (now St Petersburg). I was informed that some of the UFO sightings were in the direct vicinity of the launching pad at Plesetsk, and that this was the explanation. As a journalist with Vecherni Leningrad, I therefore sent an official inquiry to the press office of the Cosmic Troops, asking about activity at the launch site that evening.

The official reply was signed by A. 1. Radionov, military unit 57275. The information he supplied about the launch was exhaustive and gave me the opportunity to dismiss the attempts of some 'experts' to explain away the sightings as having been caused solely by the launch. For instance, the rocket launch occurred from 11.45-11.55 p.m., whereas the UFOs were reported from 9.30 p.m. until at least 3.00 a.m. the following morning. But as to these reports, Radionov told me that they had 'no information about anomalous phenomena or ob'ects'.

From this, it is evident that there is no change in the policy of our space agency in matters relating to our subject. This is an ironical situation, since in early 1992 it was announced on radio and television that a department of the former KGB [now the Russian Security Ministry and Foreign Intelligence Service - Ed.] had signed a contract with two Hollywood film producers, giving them the right to make documentary films based on some hitherto secret KGB UFO files ! 1 fail to understand why the KGB did not first supply this information to our Russian mass media. [The reason, in my opinion, is simply that the Russian authorities - including the Foreign Intelligence Service and the Security Ministry -are so desperate for hard currency that they are prepared to sell their wares to the highest bidder - Ed.]

AN ABDUCTION REPEATED?

It is my opinion that the aliens are not only observing us, but they are actively and carefully 'working' among us.

In The UFO Report 1992, I described how the forty- two-year-old bus driver Aleksandr Pavlovich Dolotov was apparently abducted by ufonauts in Leningrad on 17 June 1990. During my interview with him, I became totally convinced of his sincerity. Afterwards, I suggested to him that perhaps his night encounter would not be the last, and that another experience might be in store for him. 'If possible,' I asked him, 'please try not to resist the aliens physically, but try mentally to retain your indepen- dence and personality as a human being.'

It was obvious that he did not take me seriously. Nonetheless, in subsequent meetings with Aleksandr's wife, Dr Rita Dolotova, I asked her to keep me in touch with any possible developments. At the end of April 1991 1 got a phone cal I from Rita. 'Something happened to him again,' she began, and asked if I would come over to talk to them. The following is a reconstruction of the events which took place, based on what Aleksandr and Rita told me.

On the evening of 29 March 1991, the weather was poor, with snow and rain. It was Aleksandr's day off, but his wife and son were at work. Rita was on all-night medical duty at Baltiyski Station until the following morning. Aleksandr was sitting in the kitchen of his flat drinking tea with a friend. He had previously agreed to meet his son at his place of work at 7.50 p.m. Aleksandr, incidentally, is a very punctual man. Suddenly, he, announced that he had to visit his son, escorted his friend to the door and said good-bye. The time was now 7.35 P. M.

The first strange thing that happened, Aleksandr told me, was that for some reason he did not leave home with his friend, since the place where his son worked was in the same direction, and twenty minutes was ample time to get there. Instead, he closed the door, switched on the television and sat down. To this day, he does not understand why he did that.

Suddenly, he heard a mechanical-sounding voice say, 'Come with us!' He does not remember if this was heard physically or mentally, but he does recall that the voice was combined with a very strong feeling of presence, and that something or someone was in the corridor. 'I shall not go,' he replied immediately. He remembers that he stood up, left the room and went into the corridor. His last recollection is that there were at least two tall, human-like figures in black suits. At that point, he blacked out.

As he regained consciousness, Aleksandr found him- self in what seemed to be a moving train. At first, he was unable to raise his head, which was resting on his knees. He thought perhaps that he had been speaking to someone who was sitting behind him in the carriage. 'Why am I travelling in a train? I have no ticket', he said to himself, after checking all his pockets. Another discovery which shook him was that his shoe-laces were untied. He would normally never allow such a thing, since he is a very tidy person. Finally, he heard an announcement that the next station was Vliyanka - not far from Baltiyski Station

There were only a few passengers (but no one behind him), and Aleksandr got off the train. The time was now 1 1.05 p.m. A few minutes later he was in his wife's office, Rita told me that at first glance her husband seemed to be all right, if somewhat disturbed, and he complained of an intense headache. Rita then noticed that Aleksandr's boots were completely clean and dry, which seemed strange in view of the snow, rain and mud. At this point, Rita wondered if the door of their flat had been left unlocked, so she phoned a neighbour and asked her to check. It turned out that the door was closed, but unlocked. Normally, her husband would never leave the flat empty without locking it.

I was interested to observe how Aleksandr tried to rationalize these extraordinary experiences, but his explanations were unconvincing. It seems clear to me that:

(1) Aleksandr was under a strong mental influence, even during the meeting with his friend;

(2) He was taken away from his flat by two, or possibly three tall men, but no physical force was used;

(3) It requires about forty to forty-five minutes to get from his station, Oranienbaum, to Baltlyski Station, which means that he must have been somewhere for at least two hours;

(4) However Aleksandr managed to get into the train, it was not by foot.

UFOs OVER CHERNOBYL

The nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl, in the Ukraine, on 26 April 1986 will remain in our memories as one of the worst disasters of the century. More than five years later, in November 1991, an extraordinary article appeared in lzvestia, with the unbelievable headline: 'What are Extraterrestrials doing at the Chernobyl Atomic Electricity Plant?' The article described an interesting event which took place during a second and much less widely reported potentially catastrophic incident at Chernobyl, on the night of I I October 1991.

At 7.46 p.m., the fourth generator was disconnected in order to eradicate a defect in the lubricating system where a leak was found. This was done by putting the high-voltage switch in the 'Off' position. The refrigeration system was also put out of operation. The rotor of the generator, which is joined to the turbine rotor, was idling. At this stage, the high-voltage switch can only be put in the 'On' position manually. The refrigeration system of the nuclear generator uses hydrogen gas as a coolant - an effective method of heat transfer, but easily inflammable.

Suddenly, at 8.09 p.m. the gas in the generator began to overheat, and as a result it burst, leading to an explosion. The fire-fighters went into action, but the fire was only put out at 2.00 a.m. on 12 October. The fourth generator was destroyed; the first and third generators were flooded with water by the firemen and were put out of operation too. The roof of the building (50 metres high) was also destroyed by the explosion and fire. The station was practically 'dead', but there was no damage to the nuclear reactor, which is situated just behind the wall of that building.

Shortly after the incident, experts established (now officially) that the accident happened because of the high-voltage switch being set to the 'On' position; a situation that could not have happened by itself. The article in Izvestia referred to some witnesses who, a few minutes before the explosion, noticed a glowing bright light just over the building.

Today, due to an executive decision of the Ukrainian government, Chernobyl nuclear power station is out of operation. Experts agreed that this should have been done after the 1986 incident. [But in 1992, reactor No. 3 was reactivated after officials pleaded that its energy was essential for the coming winter, even though it Is considered unsafe by the Atomic Energy Agency - Ed. I Is it remotely possible that extraterrestrials interfered in some way in 1991, in order to prevent a more catastro- phic incident?

On 12 October 199 1, journalist Vladimir Savran of the Chernobyl Ecbo visited the power station and took several photos of the building that housed the damaged generator. To his astonishment, when he developed the film, some kind of object could be seen hovering over the station (see photo section). Here follows my translation of part of an article about the photo in an edition of Izvestia, written by N. Burbyga:

... Said Vladimir Savran: 'I arrived at the power station the next morning and did not see anything similar [referring to a glow over the building that was reported the previous day]. There were no aircraft, helicopters, nor any other objects above the power plant. But when I developed the film, I saw on the frame some kind of object hovering over the power station, the appearance of which I couldn't understand. Now I think I can explain it approximately: for some reason, that thing was invisible to the human eye, but it was captured on film.'

Was the object produced in the lens or in the camera? The first analysis was carried out by experienced criminologists of the IAD [Internal Affairs Department] of Kiev and showed that there were no defects in the film or in its processing. Further- more, there were no signs of photo-montage. So what was it? If it was extraterrestrials, why then did they appear in the vicinity of the AES [Atomic Electricity Station]? Perhaps they wanted to alert us to potential mishaps, or were simply observing us from afar. Or perhaps they themselves provoked the accident? We know one thing for sure: the accident had occurred because of spontaneous (disconnecting] of the high-voltage switch. Could this have been put into the 'On' position by itself?

Experts familiar with its construction consider such a possibility to be improbable ... s

The fact that the object did not actually appear in the sky does not surprise me, since, in my opinion, the aliens have the ability to be invisible to the naked eye if they so desire. I should add that there are persistent rumours that, just before and during the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, a UFO was observed just over the building housing the fourth reactor. Moreover, the following incident also provides testimony to suggest that such sightings over nuclear power stations are not matters of mere chance.

A CLOSE ENCOUNTER AT VORONEZH AIRPORT

At the end of September 1989 there were several spectacular UFO landings in the city of Voronezh, which caused a sensation around the world'. About a week earlier Igor Yadigin, a twenty-nine-year-old aviation mechanic, was on his way to the aviation and technical base situated in the grounds of Voronezh Airport. His duties that day began at 8.00 p.m., and to shorten the distance from his home to work he took a short cut that necessitated walking through a ravine, which was the last obstacle before the airport.

As Yadigin crossed the bottom of the ravine and began to climb up the path leading out of it, he glanced to his left and saw something glowing at a distance. The glow was emerald in colour. His first thought was that it was a rotten tree-stump, shining in the twilight, so he decided to take a closer look. The glow turned out to be a spherical- shaped object with a diameter of no more than some 70 centimetres. The sphere was hovering motionless just above the ground.

Looking at his watch, Yadigin noted that the time was 7.40 p.m. He continued walking towards the object and was about 6 metres away when he suddenly heard the crackling of twigs from his right. Unafraid, he looked in that direction and saw a very tall, well-proportioned man in a dark silver suit. His height was about 2.5 metres.

Yadigin's first thought was to invite the man to have a look at the sphere, but at that moment he noticed that the stranger's entire head was covered to the shoulders by a sort of helmet. The helmet had a visor, rectangular in shape, and it was not possible to make out the man's face because the helmet appeared to contain a type of liquid.

Before this encounter, Yadigin had been fairly relaxed, thinking only of the usual domestic problems. But suddenly, as if in some way induced, his thoughts focused on nuclear power stations. Simultaneously, a faint glow appeared on the man's visor and something made Yadigin turn in the direction of the sphere.

To his surprise, a screen appeared on the sphere, on which could be seen a 'live', high-quality picture of Chernobyl nuclear power station (with which he was familiar). The image was not in colour, but it was evident that the position from which the 'film' had been taken was unusual - just above the huge ventilation shaft of the so-called fourth block, housing the fourth generator. Yadigin then observed an explosion, followed by men arriving in cars, and a helicopter flying in the vicinity. No sounds could be heard, but the panic-stricken expressions on people's faces were only too clear.

The image on the screen then changed to that of the Novovoronezh nuclear power station (about 30 miles from Voronezh), where Yadigin had been on several occasions. Again, the position from which the 'film' had been taken was above the station. People on the ground could be seen speaking to one another, but suddenly there was a noiseless explosion, accompanied by smoke. Figures could be observed rushing around, and this was followed by a scene of the evacuation of the population from the south-west part of Voronezh to the airport.

As the 'frames' faded from view, a thought came into Yadigin's mind of Voronezh's nuclear heating station, which at the time was only under construction. He glanced at the tall figure. Again, a faint glow appeared on the visor, and the sphere displayed pictures of the completed station. The effects of an explosion could be seen - fire, black smoke, and looks of horror on people's faces. Igor could only think, 'When?'The image on the screen changed back once more to that of the Novovoronezh disaster, followed by five blinking dots of light. He was not sure what this meant. Could the dots perhaps indicate years? Would there be a disaster in 1994?

Immediately after this extraordinary experience, Igor Yadigin lost consciousness. When he recovered, there was nobody around and the sphere had gone. The time was 8.05 p.m. Apart from a headache, he felt all right, and headed for the airport, where he received a written reproof from his boss for arriving half an hour late.

A month after the incident Yadigin made an interesting discovery. He found that when he placed his hand about 40-50 centimetres from the television screen at home, it adversely affected the picture. In my opinion, this could indicate that his hand was acting as a source of radio signals. Two months later, the effect grew weaker, then disappeared completely.

Yadigin was unable to write a letter describing these experiences until five months later. He told me that each previous attempt to take up pen and paper was followed by frightening spasms in his throat, epiphora [weeping], almost total numbness of the fingers, and a strong headache. Perhaps the extraterrestrials gave Igor infor- mation about possible future disasters, but did not want him to write about them immediately.

KGB CONCERN

A letter describing his experience that Igor Yadigin sent to the Voronezh television station was passed on to a number of local UFO researchers, who in turn sent it to the local department of the KGB. As a result, Igor was invited to the KGB office. The officials paid close attention to his story, not venturing their own opinion. But at the end of the interview, they informed Yadigin that they had received similar information from two other men.

The KGB took the extraterrestrial warnings seriously, because they were concerned not only about the possibility of a disaster caused by design defects but also due to an act of sabotage.

They told Yadigin that they planned to send a letter to President Gorbachev, urgently requesting that construction of the Voronezh atomic heating station should be halted, and that the Novovoronezh station should be put out of operation. Interestingly, construction of the Voronezh station has now officially been stopped, and extraordinary measures have been undertaken to increase the safety of the Novovoronezh station. Similar measures were taken at the Leningrad atomic power station.

According to the KGB officers, on the same day of Yadigin's encounter, the radar station at Voronezh Airport detected a flight of UFOs in that vicinity. Air traffic controllers noticed on the radar screen that three unknown targets were flying at very low altitude over the airfield, at a speed of about 800-900 kph. (in my opinion, the sphere encountered by Yadigin was not itself an actual spacecraft, but a device with another purpose.)

UFOs OVER LENINGRAD NUCLEAR POWER STATION

In July 1991, 1 heard from a friend that one of our newspapers had published information about a UFO sighting over Leningrad's Sosnovyy Bor nuclear power station. The sighting had occurred on 2 March 1991, according to the report. Slightly sceptical about the story, which did not appear in an official newspaper, I began to make telephone calls directly to Leningrad's Pulkovo Airport, in my capacity as official correspondent of the Vecherni Leningrad (now Vecherni Peterburg) news- paper.

A. P. Egorov, chief of air traffic control, explained that he was not fully informed, but that in cases where Identified targets appeared on radar, they must be unofficially registered. I then spoke to the chief of air inspectors, V. P. Bazikin, who denied all knowledge of such an incident, as did a deputy flight commander. But a day later I received a call from Egorov, who confirmed that there had indeed been something unusual on the radar screens at the airport that day, and gave me phone numbers of those involved in the tracking thereof.

The chief of the radar tracking department suggested that I should speak with those who were working at the radar complex on the day in question. Eventually, I received a full and exhaustive report about the UFO sighting from Sergei Kotochigov. First of all, I must emphasize that Kotochigov is a very rational and highly qualified engineer, who knows his radar complex thoroughly. He remarked that his superiors wanted to sleep calmly at night and therefore were not interested in official investigations into the UFO sightings recorded at Pulkovo Airport. He then gave me a lot of background information about the radar complex, which is relatively new.

It was designed by the Leningrad Radio Institute, and it incorporates the latest com- puterized technology, with a range of up to 200 kilometres in distance and no less than 22 kilometres in height. The codename of the complex is 'Skala' (rock).

All information from the radar screens is recorded on videotape and is kept for not more than five days before being reused. Each aerial object detected by radar is shown on the screen as a dot of light, or 'blip'. Except for very large targets, the dimensions of these blips do not depend on the size of the object.

If the object is an airliner, for example, the plane transmits special signals, and a cross appears beside the blip. After an inquiry in the form of a special coded radio signal by the air traffic con- trollers, information about that airliner must appear on the screen (such as its registration or flight number). Additional information such as azimuth (the horizontal angle or direction of a compass bearing), distance and speed, are determined by the radar complex.

Kotochigov told me that 2 March 1991 was an ordinary working day. At 7.27 p.m., a target appeared on the radar screen. Initially, the air traffic controllers did not pay much attention to it [probably because there was no pattern of conflicting traffic - Ed.], but at 8.27 p.m. they transmitted a [blind encoder], and immediately noticed that the azimuth, distance, and even vector [any physical quantity that requires a direction to be stated in order to define it completely - Ed.] of speed, kept changing, which is unusual. The average figures were: distance, 63 kilometres; azimuth, 273 degrees. The only conclusion that could be drawn was that the unidentified target was making very fast and chaotic movements over a certain area - and that area was the nuclear power station at Sosnovyy Bor.

Significantly, a large, star-like object was observed visually from the control tower at Pulkovo. At 8.32 p.m., the object began to move at a phenomenal speed. At first, its azimuth was 273 degrees and at 88 kilometres distance, with a speed of 3,154 kph. At 8.33 p.m., the blip on the radar screen disappeared altogether. (Perhaps the object really flewaway, but there is also a possibility that it rendered itself undetectable by radar.) A few minutes later, the object reappeared over Sosnovyy Bor, then, after a minute, began to move in a north-east direction at a speed of about 3,000 kph.

During a meeting with Capt. A. P. Alekseev (military unit 62728), which took place exactly a year after the incident, I learned that this unit had received an official report about a visual UFO sighting over Sosnovyy Bor on 2 March 1991. According to the report, it was not possible to make out the precise shape of the object, because of its bright glow. As I recall, the altitude of the object was not more than 1.5 kilometres.

During my meeting with Sergei Kotochigov, I learned that the Air Defence Command of Leningrad military district, as well as Leningrad's KGB, and even the designers of the 'Skala' radar complex, were all informed about the incident. It is interesting to note that the designers ruled out any suggestion that the observations were due to a malfunction of the computer and radio systems.

On 17 March 1991, the same or another UFO appeared over a sensitive site in Leningrad, when an unidentified target was observed on the radar screens from 4.00 p.m. to 4.20 p.m., during which time a motionless object appeared just above the Atomic Research Reactor on the outskirts of Gatchina (see Fig. 11.1). (Significantly, a potentially dangerous incident took place at that site in 1991.) Kotochigov told me that the UFO departed at a speed of about 2,243 kph. He promised to keep me informed about any future sightings detected by radar at Pulkovo.

Dr Rita Dolotova (see earlier) told me that at 6.00 a.m. on 18 September 1991, when she was returning from her duties in the Sosnovyy Bor area and about to catch the first train from Kalishe Station back to St Petersburg, she suddenly noticed a bright, star-like object in the sky. It had a triangular shape and was almost motionless. At 6.15 a.m., the object began to move away. I made a phone call to Sergei Kotochigov, but he said that nothing 'interesting' was seen on radar. However, an unknown target was tracked three weeks later.

On 1 0 October 199 1, Kotochigov told me, the Skala radar complex detected the presence of an unidentified target positioned above Cape Ustinskiy (see Fig. 1 1. 1), not far from the nuclear power station at Sosnovyy Bor. For some moments, the target was completely motion- less, but then it began to make the now familiar chaotic movements. Sometimes the target disappeared com- pletely. Air traffic controllers and engineers observed the target visually for nearly twenty minutes.

Later, they obtained permission to use the powerful computer that controls all air traffic in the St Petersburg vicinity, and it was discovered that the distance of the target varied from 65 to 73 kilometres. At 4.22 p.m., the target was completely motionless at 72 km, but suddenly it began to move in an east-southeast direction - without any acceleration - at a speed of 1,852 kph. No terrestrial aircraft or spacecraft is able to make such a manoeuvre.

Moments later, the target disappeared totally from the radar screen, but then reappeared above the vicinity of Sosnovyy Bor at 4.30 p.m., making the same chaotic manoeuvres. At about 5.45 p.m., the blip on the radar screen disappeared once more. Either the object simply moved too fast to be detected by radar, or it was able to conceal itself from the radar beams.

We have to ask ourselves if all these sightings were by pure chance. Sosnovyy Bor nuclear power station is of the same type as the one at Chernobyl. On 23 March 1992, at 2.37 a.m., a leak occurred in the third reactor, and because of this there was an increase in pressure in the lead mounting of the reactor, leading to a discharge of iodine and inert gases into the atmosphere. Immediately, the reactor was deactivated. Fortunately, there was no increase in radioactivity in St Petersburg, but it wa nevertheless a very serious incident.

Are the ufonauts only observing our potentially dangerous nuclear power stations, or are they trying to prevent further tragic accidents? We can only speculate, but I have to say that I believe in the likelihood of both hypotheses.

MYSTERIOUS EXPLOSION AT SASOVO

The little town of Sasovo is about 300 kilometres east- south-east of Moscow. At 1.34 a.m. on 12 April 1991, half a mile from the south-west outskirts of Sasovo, an enormous explosion was heard. Many buildings and private houses were shaken by the blast, breaking windows, and shaking windows even 30 kilometres away in Chuykovo. At the site of the explosion was found a large crater with a diameter of about 28 metres and a depth of 3-4 metres. In the middle of the crater there was a raised section of earth about 3.5 metres in diameter. Huge clods of frozen soil were scattered around the crater up to a distance of 200 metres.

Such was the force of the explosion that some of the clods were thrown so high into the air that they impacted deeply into the ground. According to experts, 25 tonnes of explosive would have been required to produce such effects.

The shock wave spread in a strange way. Poles carrying electricity 100 metres away, for example, remained totally undamaged. Military experts such as Colonel Prodan and Captain Matveyev (both qualified sappers) stated categorically that in their opinion the explosion at Sasovo was not an ordinary one.

They gave their reasons as follows: there was a total absence of specific chemical products that are always found after an ordinary explosion; the 'hillock' in the middle of the crater is not something which is normally found; and the spread of the shock wave was not consistent with a standard explosion.

The newspaper Komsomolskaia Pravda published an account of the incident', which was limited to specula- tion, and in general failed to mention the following facts: (1) Immediately after the explosion, a sound like a )'et fighter flying away from the area was heard; (2) An eyewitness stated that there was in fact the sound of two explosions, followed by a flash of light, and then the sound as of a jet fighter; (3) Another witness said that, just above the electric power line, 100 metres away from the crater, a bluish glow, similar to an arcing effect, could be seen.

Soviet Russia then published an article in which it was stated that fertilizer was the cause of the explosion. Certainly, fertilizer was present in that area, but military experts ruled out this explanation.

I paid little heed to this incident, but then, at the end of 1991, 1 was watching a TV programme when suddenly my attention was drawn to an interview with a militia officer from Sasovo, who said that, just before the explosion, he personally observed a brightly illuminated sphere-like object in the direction of the explosion site. Speculations that a'et fighter was involved in the incident were ruled out officially, so perhaps a UFO was somehow involved in this mysterious explosion. SIGHTING BY THE CREW OF FLIGHT 2523 At 1.35 a.m. on 20 August 1991, Aeroflot Flight 2523 took off from Voronezh Airport, heading for St Peters- burg. One of the passengers on board was Igor Yadigin, the aviation mechanic whose story of a close encounter near Voronezh Airport is described earlier.

At about 2.05 a.m., one of the crew members invited Yadigin to the flight deck. As he entered, Igor was shaken by an extraordinary sight in the sky (Fig. 11.2). The jet was flying at an altitude of about 10,000 metres. To the right could be seen a sphere-like object, emerald in colour. The sphere was surrounded by a milky white hemisphere, through which the stars were visible. Above and to the left of his viewpoint could be seen the Great Bear constellation.

From the central sphere, a beam of light extended to the ground. In the estimation of the crew members, the diameter of the central sphere was about 400-800 metres, and it was stationary at a distance of not less than 50 kilometres. Igor and the crew members then noticed the navigation lights of a jet, which was changing its course in order to avoid the sphere. In Igor's opinion, the size of the jet was that of a grain compared to a plate. The total duration of the sighting was about fifteen minutes, after which the apparition simply vanished.

STALIN'S INTEREST IN UFOs

In 199 1, an interesting interview with V. Burdakov of the Russian Academy of Sciences was published in the 'Workers Tribune'. According to the academician, one of our early chief rocket scientists, S. P. Korolev, was invited to the MGB (Ministry of State Security - later the KGB) headquarters in Moscow in early July of 1947. The MGB chief explained to Korolev that the invitation was made by Stalin.

Korolev was shown to a special apartment and was given many foreign documents dealing with UFOs [some believed to relate to the so-called Roswell incident of July 1947 - Ed.], together with a team of translators. Three days later, he was invited to a meeting with Stalin, who asked him his opinion. Korolev replied that the UFOs did not appear to be weapons of a potential enemy, but that the phenomenon was real. According to Korolev, other leading scientists - Kurchyatov, Topchiev and Keldish - were also asked for an opinion, and they came to the same conclusion.

Burdakov commented that Korolev himself had observed a UFO over the launch pad at Baikonur in 1962 - a disc-shaped object with four beams of light coming down. I should point out that Korolev was at that time a man with practically unlimited power in his field. it was he who had supported and equipped an expedition to investigate the extraordinary incident which had occur- red in Tunguska, Siberia, on 30 June 1908, when many witnesses observed a very bright object which appeared to crash and explode above the ground, causing damage similar to that caused by the Hiroshima atom bomb in 1945. In Korolev's opinion, the blast was caused by an extraterrestrial vehicle.

In the article, Burdakov said that UFOs are not merely an atmospheric phenomenon, but may be material, technological craft. He added that he had seen a report on the subject prepared by a group of Soviet academicians, dated in the mid-1950s, stating that a fragment of material, cone-shaped with a blunted top, had been examined. The structure of the material was crystalline, and it was concluded that it was not of terrestrial origin.

SIGHTINGS OVER CHELYABINSK AND ST PETERSBURG

On 12 April 1992, at 2.00 p.m., I was watching the television programme called Vesti in St Petersburg, when it was announced that, according to a TASS News Agency report, a brilliant star-like object had been seen in a cloudless sky over Chelyabinsk. Moments later, the object began to descend, and then a triangular shape with bright lights at each end could be seen, as it hovered above the houses in the town. It then flew off, but five minutes later returned, only to fly away again.

A similar object was observed by Anna Gromova directly above St Petersburg, at 3.35 a.m. on 17 November 1991. The object was motionless and triangular in shape, high above the houses, its apparent size similar to that of the full moon. Through the window of her apartment she then noticed another, similar object, higher than the first one. At 4.35 a.m. she retired to bed. The witness wrote to me and later telephoned to discuss the experience. Although rather elderly, I found her to be completely rational and credible.

TRAGIC INCIDENT IN TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan is one of the Turkic republics of the former Soviet Union. On 25 May 1990, during daytime, a giant disc-shaped object hovered at an altitude of about 1,000 metres above the town of Mary. it was reddish-orange in colour, with what looked like portholes on the rim, and had an estimated diameter of 300 metres.

Military personnel observed it from a distance of no more than 3,000 metres. The airspace in that region was under strict control at the time, due to the war in Afghanistan, All Soviet Air Defence Forces were divided into regional Air Defence armies, and the area around Mary was under the control of the 12th Air Defence Army, whose Air Defence division was under the command of Colonel Anatoli Kurkchy. When informed about the UFO, Kurkchy gave the order to fire three ground-to-air guided missiles at it.

The UFO made a slight horizontal manoeuvre, and three beams of light which had been coming from its port side disintegrated the missiles. Colonel Kurkchy then gave the order to scramble two 2-seat interceptor aircraft, but at a point about 1,000 metres from the disc they appeared to be thrown to the ground, killing the pilots and destroying the aircraft.

Colonel Kurkchy was immediately removed from his post by the Army Command, and proceedings were instituted against him (under Paragraph 1, Item 5 of the Turkmenistan Criminal Procedures Code) by military prosecutors of the 12th Air Defence Army. However, according to my source, who spoke with the military prosecutor's department, the investigations were sud- denly halted and all information connected with the event was made secret. Later I learned that the squadron in which the four pilots had served was disbanded.

I had difficulty trying to persuade my source to allow me to publish this story, but eventually he agreed. The article appeared in the St Petersburg Evening in November 19918. Strangely, the editor deleted some very relevant details concerning the incident. I had appealed to those who had observed the disc to write to me at the newspaper office, and I gave my work phone number. Many interesting telephone calls ensued, two of which were particularly important. Both were from the Air Defence Staff of the Leningrad region.

The first call was from General Kremenchuk, who stated that the informa- tion in the article was totally untrue. Had it been true, he explained, he would have learned about it. He promised to call the Air Defence division in the Mary region and find out if there was any factual basis for the story, asking me to phone him the following week. I did so.

General Kremenchuk informed me not only that the Air Defence division had no record of any incidents connected with UFOs or crashed aircraft, but that there was no one in the service by the name of Colonel Kurkchy. The next call came from a lieutenant-colonel [name known to me - Ed.] under General Kremenchuk, who also promised to try to obtain some information, but added that he did not believe that such an incident could have taken place.

A few days later I called him back. Although unable to confirm or deny the information contained in my article, he told me that Colonel Kurkchy did in fact exist and was now commander of the Air Defence division in the large island of Novaya Zemlya (New Land). This northern territory has the second largest proving ground for nuclear weapons in the CIS, and because it is off-limits to civilians, it was impossible for me to get an interview with Kurkchy.

I should add that if military personnel are required to remain silent about top-secret matters, the KGB compel such personnel to sign an official document which includes a warning that in the event of the security oath being broken, they will be executed without any pre- liminary judicial inquiry.

A retired KGB officer told me recently that there existed (in 1991, at least) a specially trained KGB unit whose task was to relocate those likely to break their security oath.

SIGHTING BY THE CREW OF A MILITARY TRANSPORT AIRCRAFT

On 18 April 1992, an unusual flying object was observed by the crew of a military transport plane flying in the vicinity of Komsomolsk-na-Amure, in the Far East territory of Russia. The pilots observed the object for over an hour, but no description of its shape was given in the article in which the story appeared, which was prepared by Colonel Usoltsev, a military correspondent for the Red Star. The UFO flew directly ahead of the plane on the same course, making a series of aerobatics, such as figures-of-eight and loops. Beams of light came from the object, coloured light green to pale blue. However, neither the on-board radar nor ground radar detected anything unusual'.

Many sightings have been, and are continuing to be, reported in the Commonwealth of Independent States and independent republics, but space does not permit me to include them all. Let me conclude by reaffirming my conviction that the UFO question, seen in the light of extraterrestrials visiting Earth, is our government's most secret problem. It is known for a fact that many civilian and military scientists are directly involved in the study of UFOs but, for the most part, their findings are kept secret. In my opinion, they should be allowed to speak openly about it. It is a crime to insist on concealment: we have a duty as citizens of Earth to contravene the regulations. I am totally convinced that if we were to act openly and quickly, it would be impossible for government agencies to harm those who break their security oaths.

Our many UFO groups are divided [as elsewhere - Ed.]. Not all groups accept that UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin: it is a widespread opinion that they are nothing more than figments of the imagination or that they originate from other dimensions and are therefore purely parapsychological phenomena. Sometimes the attitude of these groups is determined by officers of the former KGB, who have infiltrated them, or is influenced by politicians. In the latter case, this is especially true in the republics, where the UFO situation is exploited for nationalistic purposes.

It is my belief that there is a so-called 'mother' civilization which gave birth to all life on our planet. The planet or planets from which this civilization originates does not exist in our solar system, but it has permanent bases therein. Finally, I am equally convinced that groups from other solar systems also visit us, using different types of spacecraft - and with varying motives.