The overnight appearance of crop circles in a field in southern Russia has puzzled farmers, with witnesses saying aliens landed there. Russian Public TV reported that a farmer from the village of Yuzhnoye, Stavropol Territory called in local officials "to record an act of vandalism" after finding that his field of ripe barley had seemingly been ruined.
Closer examination revealed four distinct circles - one 20 metres in diameter in the centre and three outer ones 5-7m in diameter each.
The barley had been smoothed down "as if by hand" in a clockwise direction.
Representatives of the Stavropol security council arrived on the scene and suppressed all reports of what happened.
They found no traces of radiation or chemicals, and human intervention was ruled out.
Officials found eyewitnesses in a neighbouring village who said they had seen a UFO landing in the field. Vasily Belchenko, security council deputy secretary, was inclined to believe them.
"There is no doubt that it was not man-made, that somebody was playing a practical joke," he said.
"An unknown object definitely landed there.
"It obviously used an unknown landing principle.
"Eyewitnesses say that the landing was very quick and the take-off was immediate," he added.
"It all happened in a few seconds."
The TV suggested that the UFO had come to the field to take a sample of the soil.
A 20-cm-deep cylindrical hole with polished walls was found right in the centre of the large circle.
The farmers are still wondering why aliens needed their earth.