The meteor that tore across the skies over Russia’s Chelyabinsk region early Friday led some suspicious Russians to conclude that it was a stealth military attack by either the U.S. or China, while others believed the end of the world was nigh, according to published reports.
The meteor triggered a shock wave that injured nearly 1,000 people, blew out windows and caused the roof of a zinc factory’s warehouse to collapse.
In several videos, a voice can be heard saying, “What the hell? … Something fell. Do you hear?” as soon as the blast took place. About a minute later, another speaker says, “It must have been a rocket or something,” followed by another voice that announces: “It must have been the Chinese!”
A U.S. weapon test?
In the political realm, Russian Liberal Democrat leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who is known for his controversial statements, blamed the blast not on a meteor, but on the United States testing a new weapon.
“You’re like some primitive tribe. What meteorite?” he said. “When something falls – it’s man-made. People are warmongers and provocateurs.”
Earlier this week, in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear test, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the foreign ministers of the countries that deal with Pyongyang. While ministers in South Korea, Japan and China took Kerry’s call, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did not pick up the phone. A spokesman later said Lavrov’s schedule made it impossible for him to answer Kerry’s call.
But the missed connection led Zhirinovsky to claim that Kerry’s call was meant “to warn Lavrov about the plot and that it may affect Russia.”
Did air defense shoot it down?
Russia’s space agency Roskosmos confirmed the falling object was a meteor, but early reports in local media tried to explain the trail of the fireball by saying the meteor had been shot by the country’s air defenses.
The local newspaper Znak quoted a source in the military saying a missile blew the meteor to pieces at an altitude of about 12 miles, it said.
Another military source quoted by the Regnum news agency said the vapor condensation trail of the meteor proves it had been intercepted and shot.
The region’s Emergency Ministry, however, denied the reports.
Considering the Russians’ superstitious nature, more theories are likely to crop up in the coming days. For now, conspiracies and eschatological fears continue to dominate.
Area resident Valya Kazakov told The Associated Press that the brilliant flare and sudden explosion caused older women in his neighborhood to fear that the world was ending.