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Group of nine scientists goes missing in southwest Siberia — source

The group was supposed to move along an ancient migration route, known as the Tunguska path

TOMSK, September 18. /TASS/. Nine scientists went missing during an expedition in southwestern Siberia’s Tomsk region, a spokesperson for the Tomsk office of the Russian Geographical Society told TASS.

"There is no contact with them. We are raising the alarm and starting the search effort," the source said.

The group was supposed to move along an ancient migration route, known as the Tunguska path. Its aim was to find out why Ketsky Ostrog, a fortification that served as a starting point for the Russian conquest of Siberia, was moved to another location.

Initial reports said the expedition was carried out by the Russian Geographical Society. The organization later said it did not organize the expedition, but two of its members were in the missing group.

"The expedition <…> began on September 1, 2021. The Russian Geographical Society is not an organizer, but two of its members are in the missing group - the expedition’s head Alexei Gaponov and cameraman Konstantin Ivashchenko, who is making a documentary," the organization said in a statement.

A group of geographers and archaeologists planned to move along the following route: Krasnoyarsk - Yeniseisk - Yartsevo - Krivlyak - Faktoriya Sym - Lake Opolchum - Lake Burgunkui - Tsentralny - Klyukvinka - Tomsk. It was last seen near the town of Krivlyak on September 11. Apparently, it did not reach the next location, Faktoriya Sym.

According to a spokesperson for the Tomsk region office of the Russian emergencies ministry, the group of scientists was last seen in the Krasnoyarsk region on September 11.

"On September 11, residents of the Maiskoye village of the Yeniseisky district [in the Krasnoyark region] saw this group. On the same day, they contacted relatives and a member of the Russian Geographical Society in Tomsk," the spokesperson said.

According to the official, rescuers were informed about the missing group on Friday.

"On September 6-11, this expedition was under supervision of the Russian emergencies ministry’s department in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. On September 10, the head of the group reported that it had concluded its journey in the Krasnoyarsk Territory and entered the territory of the Tomsk Region," he said.

A search operation is under way.

Ketsky Ostrog was a strategically important fortress, vital for the Russian exploration and development of Siberia in the 16-18th centuries. The fortification was relocated several times, and its latest location was established in 2019. Earlier sites of Ketsky Ostrog are known only from written sources and have never been examined by archaeologists.