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Cannibal Fears Over Lost Russian Fishermen
Two fishermen who survived three months lost in Siberia may have eaten their companion, Russian investigators fear.
A murder investigation has been launched following the men's rescue by the River Sutam, 155 miles from the nearest town of Neryungri in the federal republic of Yakutia.
The pair were among four fishermen who disappeared during an August river-fishing expedition in one of the world's most remote and inhospitable locations.
They claimed their group had split up and the others were likely to still be alive, as they were used to living in the open.
But the murder probe was opened after investigators from the regional capital Yakutsk found fragments of a human corpse near the spot where the pair were found.
The Yakutia branch of Russia's Investigative Committee said signs of a violent death had been discovered.
"A criminal case into suspected murder has been opened," it said in a statement.
The two men have fled the hospital where they were being treated for severe frostbite and are now on the run, according to a report on the lifenews.ru website.
Russia has no article in the criminal code for cannibalism, but the state RIA Novosti news agency said the initial theory was that the two men had eaten one companion. It was not clear what happened to the fourth man.
"What we found were chopped human bones, fragments of a skull and a bloodstained chunk of ice," an investigator, who was not named, told the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid daily.
"It's clear that this person did not die of his own accord."
The human remains have yet to be identified. The wife of one of the men whose remains are missing, named as Andrei Kurochkin from Saratov, said she had not yet given up hope for her husband.
Olga Kurochkina said: "The police said that they had found human remains. But I believe that Andrei is alive. I am hoping other hunters have found him and he is not alone."
The rescued pair, reportedly aged 37 and 35, have denied any wrongdoing and said they had managed to survive the sub-zero temperatures by sheltering in a wooden hut and foraging for wild food.
Irina, the wife of one of the men, denied her husband, named as Alexei Gorulenko, could have eaten human flesh - and refuted claims the group were actually gold prospecting.
"The information on the internet that my husband is a cannibal and was looking for gold is not true," she told local news site wolsk.ru.