A GLOWING green fireball buzzing over Russia's hi-tech "scientific city" in Siberia has sparked claims Vladimir Putin could be developing space weapons.
The bright flash and streaking tail was seen by stunned motorists near the research town of Akademgorodok near Novosibirsk, Russia.
Research institutes in the area are dubbed Vladimir Putin's "secret weapon" in the global hi-tech arms race.
Just six miles away is Koltsovo, the home of a secretive institute Vector – the repository of the most deadly diseases and viruses, including smallpox, Ebola and Marburg.
Images were caught on dash cams in the early morning darkness.
Some observers claimed it was an "alien attack" or a meteor exploding in the sky.
Other suggestions were Russian testing "extremely advanced weapons" or "UFOs ready to invade Ukraine".
State-run Russian media admitted astronomers were "somewhat bewildered" by the sight.
Ilya Orlov, deputy director of the Big Novosibirsk Planetarium, called it a "beautiful phenomenon" but could not be certain what caused it.
He said: "Most likely, this is a flash of bolide, that is, the fall of a bright meteor with a flash."
If so it is unusual, he said.
He said: "It's all the more amazing because there are no active meteoro showers now.
"It can be either the tail of a meteor shower or a lonely meteor.
"We need to find out."
No traces of space rock were found on the snowy ground, it was reported.
There were also no reports of explosions.
It is not believed there were rocket launches or missile tests at the time it appeared early on Tuesday.
Akademgorodok was set up by the Kremlin in 1957 as the basis for Soviet scientists in Siberia – far from the prying eyes of the West.
It is now home to many of Russia's leading researchers and academics specializing in all branches of sciences, including military and space developments.
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In recent years Vector has been involved in efforts to find cures and antidotes to killers such as bubonic plague, anthrax, hepatitis B, HIV and cancer.
The research center holds one of only two sources of smallpox in the world – the other is in the US – under an international agreement.
This is not the first time fears over Russia's secretive weapons programs have been raised, with some claiming he is developing robot tanks and a new generation of stealth bombers to outgun the west.
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