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Stanislav Yus (right) stands with Christopher Miller outside Ukraine's Yuzhmash rocket factory.

DNIPRO, Ukraine -- Stanislav Yus is as polite and unassuming as the missiles he created for the Soviet Union were menacing and deadly.

When I meet Yus beside a once-dreaded but now-defunct "Satan" SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that he designed at the height of the Cold War, he's cheerful yet appears somewhat surprised to find an American on the other side of a handshake. You'd have never been allowed here 30 years ago, he chuckles.

"Here" is inside Ukraine's heavily guarded and secretive state-run rocket-making factory, comprised of the Yuzhnoye design bureau and its manufacturing partner, Yuzhmash.

Yus, 80, a native of the Dnipro region, started his career at Yuzhnoye at the age of 22 under the tutelage of then-chief designer Mikhail Yangel, a Soviet legend. He rose rapidly through the ranks, helping design several rockets and spacecraft. But his legacy is built on the massive ICBMs he designed, like the Satan, as the West called it, which could deliver 10 or more nuclear warheads with great precision halfway around the world in roughly 20 minutes.

Yus -- a laureate of the Soviet Lenin Prize, Lenin Komsomol Prize, and a Hero of Socialist Labor -- is already a legend in his own right, and one of the last of his generation of missile designers.

After a quick ride to Yangel's original home near the factory, Yus gives a detailed history of Yuzhnoye and explains how drastically things changed for the factory at the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the U.S.S.R. In a nutshell, government contracts had ensured that the factory stayed busy. The period following Ukraine's independence was a "trying" time, he says.

He appears uncomfortable, or perhaps just cautious, when discussing the relationship between Ukraine and Russia these days, more than three years into an undeclared war that has killed more than 10,100 people. He prefers to stick to talking design, the more technical the better.

But I want to know: Did he ever think about the devastation the missiles he designed during the Cold War were capable of inflicting, of nuclear annihilation?

Yus takes a deep breath.

"I wasn't overthinking it," he says, suggesting that compartmentalization is a key element for a missile designer to effectively do his job.

Pressed a bit, he admits in his characteristic manner that he remained fully aware that, had the Cold War turned hot and his missiles been let loose, it would have marked a "very destructive period for the world."

"We were working in accordance with the Soviet policies only to protect the Soviet Union in the event that we were struck first," he adds.

Today, he says, with Yuzhnoye having diversified and investment spread among other activities, "it doesn't allow us to work fully in the area of rocket complexes." Rocket design and manufacturing continues, but at a much slower pace than in Soviet times.

Much of Yus's focus now is on designing high-capacity wind turbines, trolleybuses, and combine harvesters that the company believes will help it to endure in a new age.

But given the chance, he'd get back to work full-time on designing missiles, Yus says, which are "needed for the defense of the country."

The mummy was put inside a makeshift wooden box and buried on October 14 by a group of men in the village of Kara-Bulak in southern Bishkek Province, where it was discovered in 1956.

On the eve of the last weekend’s presidential election, Kyrgyzstan quietly buried an ancient mummy that had resided at the National History Museum in Bishkek for more than 60 years.

The preserved remains, which scientists believe are about 2,000 years old, were laid to rest in an unremarkable “ceremony” in a remote village after the country’s culture minister said they were just a “corpse."

The mummy was neither a “pharaoh” nor a “queen” and there wasn’t much point in looking at her, Tugolbai Kazakov was quoted as saying. He also pointed out that Kyrgyzstan didn’t have the necessary facilities or expertise to safeguard the mummy.

The comments, however, have come back to haunt the minister.

A group of Kyrgyz scientists are accusing Kazakov of vandalism and are threatening to sue him if the mummy isn't exhumed and returned to the museum.

Kyrgyz Culture Minister Tugolbai Kazakov says the furor is aimed at removing him from his job. "This is not about the mummy," he says.
Kyrgyz Culture Minister Tugolbai Kazakov says the furor is aimed at removing him from his job. "This is not about the mummy," he says.

The mummy was put inside a makeshift wooden box and buried by a group of men in the village of Kara-Bulak in southern Bishkek Province, where it was discovered in 1956.

According to the Culture Ministry, there was no traditional Muslim burial ceremony for the mummy because the individual belonged to the pre-Islamic era.

The burial took place on October 14, with scientists reportedly warning that the mummy could disintegrate within months if it wasn't taken back to the vacuum chamber at the museum.

Kyrgyz archaeologist Oroz Soltobaev called the decision a “stab in the back of science.”

Kadicha Tashbaeva, the head of the archaeology department at the Institute of History and Cultural Heritage, said that scientists were calling on outgoing President Almazbek Atambaev to order the mummy’s immediate exhumation.

Speaking alongside other scientists at a press conference in Bishkek, Tashbaeva said they would take the matter to court and international organizations if the president didn't take appropriate measures.

Atambaev had earlier said the mummy’s burial was a mistake. But he suggested that the mummy should not be dug up again.

The culture minister has insisted that he stands by his decision even if “they shoot him dead” for it. He fired back at Kyrgyz scientists, saying they hadn't conducted any research on the mummy in the past six decades.

“What do we know about the mummy if we put her back at the museum for display? Everybody knows Lenin. What do we have to say about this girl to museum visitors?” Kazakov told Kyrgyz media.

The minister claimed that the furor was aimed at removing him from his job.

“This is not about the mummy. This is a fight for my position,” he said, adding, “I’m tired. Dig up the mummy...if you want.”

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by Kyrgyz media and RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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