Interview with Russian scientists. Sighting from an airplane from Tblisi, the creature at Vorenezh and the jelly fish over Petrozavodsk are discussed.

By Clas Svahn

Two Russian scientists, professors Sergey Chernouss and Vladimir Pivovarov, both working with the Polar Geophysical Institute near Murmansk and members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, have also been investigating Russian UFO-raports for several years. Mr Chernouss was one of the speakers at the international UFO-conference in Sheffield last autumn.

In an interview with UFO-Swedens magazine UFO-Aktuellt they describe their work and thoughts about the UFO phenomena. Mr Chernouss and Mr Pivovarov are members of a group of 15 scientists from the Academy focusing on UFO-reports.

- Our committe investigates 10-15 cases every year. But we try to pick the most spectacular ones, says Chernouss who himself investigates two or three of them. 99 per cents of the cases get a satisfactory explanation according to professor Chernouss:
- Most of them are related to human activities in near space. Rocket launches, of which there are many in Russia, lies behind most of them. The rest one per cent lacks enough information to be evaluated.
- When we do our investigations we no longer restrict ourselfs to mere statements from the observer. That is not a very fruitful way to work. Instead we focus on tangible evidence such as films or pictures.

The UFO-group have access to several all-sky cameras used for other scientific purposes (such us recording northern lights) in their work. If a significant sighting take place near one of the cameras the film is scrutinized. This far no proof of any UFOs have turned out from that research.
- It is an interesting fact that the only cameras that do record mysterious lights are the ones placed near densely populated areas or near kosmodromes. We have, for example, similar cameras in the Antarctic but they never shows anything more mysterious than ordinary polar lights.

Professor Chernouss sees this as an indication of the human origin of most so called UFOs and remembers several "classic" cases that have turned out to be rocket launches under extraordinary conditions.

One famous example is the so called Tblisi-sighting where a Soviet commercial airliners crew and passengers observed a strange light during a flight from Tblisi in Georgia to Tallin in Estonia in januari 1985.

The sighting started with the pilots spotting a "very bright star" 40 kilometers over the ground. After a while a conelike streak of light emerged from the star and hit the ground and later turned to point directly to the aircraft. Seconds later the UFO seamed to fly towards the airplane in a very high speed, leaving a greenish cloud behind.

This observation have long been thought of as a genuine UFO-observation but it is now clear that what the crew observed was a launching of a rocket. The description fits exactly with how an outburst from a rocket engine should look and there are several similar observation to compare with.

The impression that the UFO was coming closer to the aircraft was created by the enormous green gascloud that was ejected from the rocket during the ascent and shortly before it turned northeast. - We have identified this rocket and everything fits with the observations, says professor Chernouss.
- We have also investigated the Vorenezh sighting (September 1989) where some kids saw a bright "craft" and later some creatures on the ground. The time of the sighting and the direction of the observerd craft coincides precisely with a rocket experiment that was taking place at Volgograd.

But the most known incident of a rocket launch confusing people is the "Petrozavodsk jellyfish UFO" of the 20 September 1977. This event coincides on the very minute with the launching of spy satellite Kosmos 955 from the Plesetsk kosmodrome south of Archangelsk.

James Oberg, in his book "UFOs & Outer Space Mysteries" (Donning 1982), shows this connection very clear and even publish a picture taken from Finland of the incident. In this picture, taken by Jukka Mikkola, one sees the first arms of the jellyfish form.

At our meeting professor Chernouss shows additional pictures taken by three independent all-sky cameras on the night of the Petrozavodsk incident. On the pictures from Sodankylä in Finland it is possible to follow the contrails of Kosmos 955 evolving into a giant jellyfish. The first picture is taken 04.04 and is mostly covered with a bright aurora but three minutes later the jellyfish is clearly visible and on the last picture, taken 04.08, nearly 15 per cent of the entire sky is covered by the jellyfish. A sight seen by the citizens in Petrozavodsk and misinterpreted as a UFO.

On an other set of pictures from Archangelsk we can se how the rocket exhaust in less than a minute between 04.04 and 04.05 "explodes" into gigantic proportions from having been a minor speck of light. The time and the description of the "UFO" fits exactly with the pictures of the satellite launching.

Since most parts of the Russian rocket launching programme was hidden from the public for decades and the kosmodrome at Plesetsk (the worlds busiest space port) was not known by others than the military and the politicians (and of course experts in the West), it is not strange that many of the most spectacular launchings was thought to be UFOs by the public. In the 70:s UFO-Sweden got many interesting UFO reports that later have tuned out to be launchings from Plesetsk. Observations of Russian rockets continued during the 80:s but has now decreased as the Russian economy doesnét alloud as many launchings as before.

The Russian Academy "UFO-group" have their archives in Moscow and also have access to military reports. In one case the group was able to explain a film taken by a Baltic fighter pilot as being a scientific balloon from Esrange satellite surveillence station outside Kiruna in the north of Sweden. The film was classified but the group got access to it and found the explanation.

Professor Chernouss is dissapointed with the quality of the Russian UFO-groups and indicates that most of them are more interested in getting money from their dubios publications than investigating cases.

UFOs are big business in the former Soviet republics and books and magazines sell very well. A recent book, published in Estonia, sold its first 20.000 copies in no time and are now out of print.

- We have tried to work with the groups but most of them donét like our approach to the subject. For many of them UFOs are "food for the brain" and they really donét want to find explanations, says professor Chernouss.

The last two or three years, with increasing freedom of the press and "perestrojka" making the society more open, the newspapers and other mass media in the former Soviet union have started to print one incredible story after the other. A couple of years ago I, Clas Svahn, met with professor Oleg Yakovlev, a geochemist and expert on the surfaces of the planets, at an exhibition in Stockholm. Professor Yakovlev confirmed that the press seemed to have lost all control of the stories printed and that nothing was weird enough to be left out.

This have led to many clear fabrications to be printed without any follow ups. Some of the stories later reach the west as true accounts of UFOs. During the 90:s the UFO interest in Russia has declined and many magazines have folded. Instead people turn to the mystic and paranormal that sell well.

Hopefully the contacts now made between UFO-Sweden, The Archives for UFO Research and the Russian scientists will enable us to get more realiable information and to check interesting cases. This cooperation will also be a great help in identifying the many rocket launches from the Plesetsk kosmodrome that often are observed from Sweden (the light can be seen more then 1.000 kilometers) and mistaken for UFOs.

Since before UFO-Sweden have contacts with several UFO groups inside Russia and representativies for UFO-Sweden have met with Russian ufologists in Moscow.

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