Russian scientists to make contact with yeti

Russian scientists say they plan to make contact with the legendary 'abominable snowman', after a spate of yeti sightings has led to proposals for a special research institute dedicated to studying the fabled creature.

Hominology experts are awaiting a decision by the Siberian government on funding for the institute at Kemerovo University. Researchers plan to investigate eye-witness reports of the beasts, which some experts believe could be a remaining population of human ancestor, Neanderthal man.

Seven-foot tall, hairy, manlike creatures have been spotted wandering in the wilderness around Mount Shoria, according to reports from at least 15 locals in the Kemerovo region. That would make one very tall Neanderthal.

One man even claims to have saved a yeti from drowning in a river while he was out hunting.

Afanasy Kiskorov from the town of Tashtagol told investigators: "Their bodies were covered in red and black fur, and they could climb trees. The creature was screaming in fear after falling into a swollen mountain river."

As yet, no photos have been produced to confirm the existence of the mythical hominid. But hair specimens, large footprints and the discovery of rudimentary shelters made of branches have prompted speculation that the yetis may be a remnant population of Neanderthals.

Kemerovo's regional government will announce its final decision on whether the institute will go ahead after it hosts an international conference on yetis later in the year.

Dr Igor Burtsev, director of the International Center of Hominology, is one of the scientists pegged to join the team at Kemerovo.

"In Russia there are about 30 authoritative scientists who are engaged in studying the phenomenon of the abominable snowman," says Burtsev. "All of them will be integrated into this institute. The primary goal is to establish contact with one of the creatures."