Colourful Kalmyk president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is ready to make contact with outer space once he leaves office next month.
The long-serving leader of the south-western republic has repeatedly claimed to have met aliens – and he wants to see Russia create a centre for UFOlogy to help explore what happened to him.
“In many countries that I visit there are laboratories that investigate UFOs and make contact,” he told journalists at a press conference in Elista. He did not specify anywhere. He added that he had talked about extraterrestrial civilisations with foreign dignatories, including heads of state gzt.ru reported.
It’s not the first time he’s discussed his fascination with other worlds. In May he drew fire from State Duma deputy Andrei Lebedev after he gave an interview on TV about a visit he had received from aliens in 1997. “I believe I communicated with them, I saw them. I probably would not have believed it, but there were three witnesses: my driver, the Minister and my assistant,” he told TV presenter Vladimir Pozner. He described the visitors as “men in yellow suits” who arrived on his balcony in a “translucent tube.
Lebedev thought that Ilyumzhinov might have something to hide and feared that national security might have been breached if Ilyumzhinov had passed any “sensitive information” to the extraterrestrials.
Talk at the press conference focused so much on aliens that organisers had to remind journalists that their main reason for being there was to discuss the head’s resignation. Returning to the topic, he said the would not run for a fifth term, and that he would remain in the country to deal with socio-economic projects and continue to promote the republic as a centre of chess.
The former president’s position as head of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) has put Kalmykia on the map as an international chess mecca. He wants to make sure that all 170 of the federation’s member countries make chess part of their national curriculum.
Ilyumzhinov enjoyed the support of the Kremlin in his bid to hold on to the leadership of the FIDE, while most of the federation wanted him out in favour of former champion Anatoly Karpov and his sponsor, ex grandmaster and opposition politician Garry Kasparov. The colourful power struggle that ensued was portrayed as a tussle between modern democratic forces and the old guard.
He said on Wednesday that he would be happy with any of the United Russia candidates to take his position, saying that they were all up to the job.
And there was much to be proud of in his years as leader, he claimed. “We have ensured that there were no terrorist attacks,” he boasted, adding that sharp religious divides between Christians, Muslims and Buddhists made inter-factional violence a real possibility. When asked to comment on accusations that he left behind a devastated region Ilyumzhinov said that the republic was one of the most peaceful in the southern region.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, leader of the southern Russian region of Kalmykia