Mystery of 'UFO' over Russian election protest solved

'UFO' was camera owned by citizen-journalist network on remote-controlled chopper

The massive protest Muscovites staged to demand a recount and investigation into the massive victory scored by former KGB officer, former Russian President Vladmir "Action Vlad" Putin had a visitor that was probably much more strange to post Cold-War Russians than to geeky Americans still trying to keep pace with the massive American defense industry.

The leaderless crowd of between 60,000 and 100,000 – organized through Facebook and other social networking sites – represented every slice of the political spectrum, from far-right-wing nationalists to hard-left communists, according to Toronto's Globe and Mail.

They accused Vladimir Churlov, chairman of the Russian Central Elections Commissions of widespread fraud designed to give the election to Putin. Putin was President for the maximum of two consecutive four-year terms before retiring to the office of Prime Minister in 2008 to wait out an interim term by his former deputy, Dmitry Medvedev, who chose not to run during this year's election. His term ends in 2012.

Similar gatherings were held in more than 50 other Russian cities.

While the crowd shouted "Russia without Putin" and similar things likely to attract the attention and displeasure of the once and future president, a UFO the size and shape of a trash can appeared, hovering high enough to be out of reach of the crowd, but well within the range of any ultralight, relatively imprecise camera equipment that might be on board.

The Russian press was stymied by the object, which hovered as if observing the crowd for several minutes before.

The UFO puzzled members of much of the local and foreign press, though according to the Russian RT Network the only question among those in the crowd was whether the hovering object was owned by the police or by a Russian TV network. (Most disappointingly, it was also not piloted by aliens.)

During the heyday of state security, it could only have been the secret police. Today it would most likely be from a broadcast network owned by a swaggering Russian oligarch.

Neither stereotype was true.

According to RT, the shots were taken by a camera mounted to a remotely operated multi-rotor helicopter owned by the Ridus news agency.

There is even a (Russian-language) page of photos taken by the UFO (Ridus drone), though few in the foreign press appear to have picked them up, with the exception of London's MailOnline, which credited the photo to Reuters, according to the RT story.

The drone camera, aka “the Moscow UFO”, was launched by the Ridus news agency – an independent community of “civilian journalists”, as they tend to call themselves, which is becoming increasingly popular among Russian bloggers, with anyone potentially being able to contribute to their news reports.

The aerial shots taken by the Ridus drone camera above Bolotnaya Square on December 10 instantly spread throughout the internet. Funnily enough, one of them was published by MailOnline in their UFO article with the following caption: “An aerial view of the rally in Bolotnaya Square during the protest in which the alleged UFO sighting was made.” The copyright mark on the photo cites Reuters. – RT Network, Dec. 13, 2011

Too bad. It was a nice mystery, while it lasted.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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