Adam Davies telephoned us from Nalchik airport. All the team have arrived in Kabardino Balkaria safe and sound, with their baggage and equipment intact, and furthermore, they have liased as arranged with Grigoriy Panchenko and his colleagues who have been doing advance research in the region for the last two weeks.
Excitingly it appears that Panchenko and his compadres have already secured some faecal samples, as well as some bone fragments supposedly from a skull which may be of an almasty. Back here at Mission Control in North Devon I cannot comment further on these potentially exciting finds because I have no idea what their provenance is, and the telephone call with Adam didn't last long enough to find out.
They are leaving Nalchik now, and heading for Tyrnyauz in the mountains which will provide a base for operations for the next few days. All that we can do at this stage is to speculate, but the Foreign and Commenwealth Office [FCO] website has warned Britons against travelling to the area. Richard and the boys decided to ignore that warning, believing - after long talks with Grigoriy - that the risks were being over-stated. However, it makes sense for them to put as much distance between them and Nalchik, where a major terrorist attack took place in 2005.
According to the FCO, "In July 2007 fighters linked to the rebel cells in Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus issued generic statements warning tourists not to visit Kabardino-Balkaria, listing casinos, hotels and bars as legitimate targets for terrorist-style activity". In October 2007, 59 suspects were put on trial for the 2005 atrocities. The main revolutionary group in Kabardino Balkaria appears to be a militant Islamic organisation called Yarmuk Jamaat who were responsible for the assasination of Anatoly Kyarov, the head of the Russia's Kabardino-Balkaria republic's UBOP (Unit for Fighting Organized Crime). He was assassinated on January 12, 2008 in Nalchik.
Panchenko and his colleagues have been working out of Tyrnyauz for 14 years now and have their own network of supporters, so the team will be safe when they get there.
We will be happier when we hear that the team have arrived safely, although we believe, after having talked at length with Grigoriy Panchenko, that there is no real need to worry, and every likelihood that the CFZ expedition will be able to carry out their search for evidence for the almasty - the enigmatic wildman of the Caucasus mountains - unhindered.