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There have been many supposedly close encounters with these hirsute beasts, called yeti, which are said to roam the icy landscapes of the Himalayas and Siberia.

So far, however, no one has been able to prove their existence. No yeti has yet been captured by a man or even a camera lens meaning that, for many, the creature remains more unlikely than the Loch Ness Monster. But is all that about to change? Attempts to track down an example of the part-ape, part-bear and part-man are getting serious.

A team of international scientists will soon stage a new expedition and a conference which will be the largest of its kind since 1958 and will include experts from six nations. Russian and US delegates have agreed to share secret Cold War evidence in an attempt to establish that the yeti is more than a myth.

The expedition will centre around Kemerovo in Western Siberia, which is 2,000 miles and four time zones east of Moscow and in which a surge of sightings has been reported in recent years. Locals in the coal-mining area, where temperatures can drop as low as minus 40C, say that the creature steals sheep and hens. Expert Igor Burtsev believes that not one yeti lives there but a group of 30.

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