The remote village of Tashtagol lies in the mountains of Siberia in Russia’s Kemerovo region, more than 3,500km east of Moscow.
It is an isolated place with a harsh climate 40 degrees in summer and minus 40 in winter.
It is a place where anonymous tracks lead travelers deep into dark pine forests only to abandon them on the edges of desolate villages. It is a place few go without good reason.
In recent years several underground gas explosions have claimed the lives of dozens of local miners. Protests calling for improved safety conditions regularly erupt and subside.
A lack of alternative jobs has left hundreds resigned to seek their fortune deep underground. But something is stirring in Southern Siberia that could turn the region into a new tourist destination.
Tashtagol has seen more activity than usual. A scientific forum held at the initiative of the local governor and United Russia party member Aman Tuleyev finished over the weekend.
It ended with a tour of a mountain cave, where experts and enthusiasts claim to have found the markings and hair of a strange creature thought to be the legendary Yeti.
California resident Ron Morhead, who presented audio recordings reportedly made by “humanoid creatures”, and farmer Robin Lynne of Michigan, who claims to regularly dish-out snacks to a local bigfoot, attended the conference.
Also attending the conference was boxing great Nikolai Valuyev. At 2.13 metres, Valuyev is one of the tallest boxers in the sports history. It has earned him the nickname “Beast from the East”.
“I have no doubts, the Yeti has settled [here],” said Valuyev.
He also compared his foot print with that apparently made by the Yeti. “I have size 52, and the Yeti has maybe 60.”
Here’s Valuyev touring the cave.
Others scientists say the evidence is scant. Several Russian cryptozoologists say the conferences findings are unimpressive. DNA tests show little more than traces of other local wildlife including brown bears.
Local opposition politicians say the apparent discovery is a publicity stunt. Valuyev, like several other Russian sporting stars, recently entered politics. He is standing in State Duma elections in Kemerovo for Putin’s United Russia party.
Putin himself is no stranger to publicity stunts. He has tranquilized a tiger, collared a polar bear, captained a submarine, ridden a Harley and even shot a whale with a cross-bow.
More recently though Putin’s long-serving spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted that the Russian prime minister’s discovery of a 6th century BC urn during a televised diving trip was a set up.
So, the question remains – is Valuyev aping Putin publicity tactics or has the “Beast from the East” really tracked down a Siberian Snowman?