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Edward Crabtree

Moscow's mysterious lights

October 20, 2018 | Comment icon 0 comments
Image Credit: iStockPhoto
When UFO witness and enthusiast Robbie Williams opened the World Cup in June of this year, it is doubtful whether he expected a UFO to show up over Russian skies so soon.

On June 17th a serpentine wake materialised above one of the stadiums in Nizhny Novgorod, a river city in central Russia, causing consternation on social media. It looked like an enormous luminous tadpole in the dark blue Nizhny summer sky.

An official explanation soon got issued, however. This was an example of our own technology. The launch of a Soyuz 2.9lb rocket carrying a navigation satellite from Mirny in Arkhangelsk had created the spectacle (The Independent, June 19th 2018).

Should you delve in to Russia's encounters with Neopoznani Letayooshi Obyekti – their term for Unidentified Flying Objects – then you will hear much of the Tunguska fireball of 1908, of the 'M-triangle' in the Ural Mountains and of the mass Close Encounter of the Third Kind that was reported in the town of Voronezh in central Russia in 1989. These are the Roswells and Rendlesham forests of Russian Ufology, but all of them occurred in remote or provincial areas.

What of Russia's capital, the biggest city in Europe though? This is a city that boasts plenty of air traffic with four international airports and military helicopters and surveillance drones up above. When it comes to saucers, though, we hear less news.

This is to be expected if you study the patterns in UFO sightings. The emergence of anomalous objects above densely populated urban areas seems a rarity. (The exceptions include the Washington DC flap in 1952 and the spate of sightings, continuing to this day, that have occurred over Mexico City beginning with the solar eclipse visible there in 1991). Nevertheless, Moscow has indeed produced it own saucer legends. Some of these are bogus and others which are yet to be explained.

False alarms.

2009 was a busy year for Muscovite UFO rumours. In that year a sensational You tube video went viral. This showed a fuzzy grey pyramidal structure (which some compared to a Star Wars Phantom fighter) making its way over the Kremlin in broad daylight. (, 19th December 2009).

Whilst police have indeed reported odd lights over the Kremlin's Spasskaya tower before (see, the idea that such a vast craft could remain above one of the most monitored airspaces in the world without a major incident can be dismissed. (Perhaps we were less blasé about Computer Generated Images, the obvious candidate for this, even in those days).

Earlier in that same year, however, a sight, which was just as dramatic, drew people's attention over the city of Moscow - and this time it was not the product of graphic manipulation. A massive circular cloud formation formed over the city looking like... well, like the residue of a flying saucer visitation!

In fact what this constituted was a meteorological phenomenon known as a punch hole cloud ( The preconditions for a punch hole cloud are rare and complex. In brief, wispy clouds surround a patch of sky because water droplets freeze quickly and start to drop leaving a hole. This process is indeed begun by the passage of an aircraft, but known ones (Mail online, 26/10/2017).

Two years later a more nuts-and-bolts interloper made itself known above the heads of 25,000 protesters who had gathered at Bolatnaya square, in central Moscow, to make their feelings known about parliamentary fraud. That a clear mechanical device complete with flashing lights was visible to the crowd of protesters was unarguable and would later be reported as a UFO story by the respected British newspaper The Daily Telegraph (12th December, 2011). Later however, Russia Today rebuffed this notion with some haste. Writing for that outlet, Vitaly Mateev, who had himself attended the rally, insisted that this was a drone sent out by the Ridus News Agency to cover the event. The assembled masses were only concerned as to whose drone it was. (R.T, 13th December 2011).

Not all of the UFO cases from Moscow, however, can be ascribed in such an easy way as being clever hoaxes, unusual weather conditions or known aircraft.
Diamonds in the sky.

The historic town of Kolomna, some 71 miles to the south east of Moscow, gained the honour of being something of a UFO hotspot a few years ago. Kolomna residents had uploaded some videos of curious illuminations over the town in March 2015 and 2016. These seemed to hover in formation in the Kolomna skies and no official explanation for their existence has been forthcoming.

In January 16th a similar spectacle was then recorded over Moscow. A cameraman identified only as Timur captured some UFOs over Zhubelino, a modern district in the southwest of the city. Four orbs can be seen: red on the left, two white ones in the middle and a darker one on the right side. Chinese lanterns? Timur thought not saying that he had never seen their like before in all the two years he had lived in that area. Then the late great founder of Kosmopoisk and aerospace engineer Vadim Chernobrov declared the positioning of the light to be too geometrical to have a mundane cause (Proof of Aliens Life, 15th March 2016).

Subsequently, on October 3rd of that same year, a closer encounter was documented. This time it occurred in the Marfino district of the north Moscow region. In footage, which was much shared on the popular Russian Vkontakt site, a Vladimir Tillman filmed a dazzling orb as it appears to descend over a residential area and then rise again. Mr Tillman claimed that there was no rotor or engine noise from the object, which seems to rule out the obvious explanation of helicopter. No official explanation was forthcoming and the event was deemed noteworthy enough to make it into the British tabloid press (Express online, 7th October 2016).

Moscow even contains its own mini-anomalous zone. In the Southeast of Moscow there can be found a park called Kolomenskaya Park and within this there is an area known as Golosov ravine. For the past two centuries there have been local tales of people going missing in that area, and bizarre time slips there too. As with many such locations, UFOs seem to come into it: Vadim Chernobrov has committed to video shots of unusual objects in the vicinity, although the footage is hard to come by.

Wilder shores.

So thus far, the most credible films of UFOs over Moscow have been in the way of moving white or coloured illuminated points again a night sky. Nocturnal lights of this kind form the most rudimentary, and common, type of UFO sighting. In Dr Allen Hyneck's 1972 classification system they come first and are labelled Distance Encounter 1's. The science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke was not too impressed by these. He once commented that he would not cross the road for such a sighting, so ambiguous were they. So what about more extraordinary allegations from Moscow?

There do exist hints of a close Encounter of the Third Kind between a woman and a UFO occupant in a wooded area in Moscow in 1990 but this remains hard to verify. Likewise claims surface MIG 20 fighters were scrambled to chase a UFO over Zagorsk (now Sergiev Posad), a northerly region of Moscow, on March 21st 1990, but again details are patchy (see Space/TimeForum video clip from 21st March 2013).

Our final exhibit is well documented, but also the most outlandish of them all. It concerns a man who claims to have been taken on a ride on a flying saucer while his driver and assistant looked on.

The gentleman in question is no village hick either: he is Kursan Ilyumshinov, the President of the Republic of Kalmykia in southern Russia, and the former President of the World Chess Federation.

The alleged event took place on 17th September 1997 when Ilyumshinov received a visit from yellow costume clad human-like aliens on the balcony of his flat on Leontievsky Lane in Moscow. The governor has made claims about these benign beings, and how they introduced him to their own planet, many times in mass media outlets including BBC television in 1998 and, ten years later, on Radio Freedom. (The chess historian Edward winter has collected many of these interviews together in an online site called Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and the Aliens from 2013).

A bold publicity stunt? Perhaps so but there are some Russian politicians who would rather not take any chances. A Russian MP called Andrey Lebedev has called for Ilyumshinov to be interrogated by the Russian authorities the better to find out what he knows, and what he has revealed. (Daily Telegraph 6th May 2010).

Of all the above cases the one I find the most compelling is Tillman's shot of the very bright light all but landing in the Marfino district. Private drones are banned in Moscow so it is difficult to believe that anyone would fly one in such a visible way. The other option is a military helicopter but it is hard to see what business such an aircraft would have in a built up area – and why no noise?

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