I don't suspect the Mansi...
I've just finished reading Svetlana Oss - Dont Go There and I'm seriously reconsidering this assumption!
I thought "murderous Mansi" was too obvious, but it could be that simple:
- The two women weren't raped (unlikely to be the case with other perpetrators)
- Valuables in the tent weren't stolen (would not steal from sacred site)
- Vodka in the tent wasn't stolen (and Mansi searchers refused to drink it)
- Mansi Choom located just 800m from the tent (record of a kill or sacrifice)
- Other people who trespassed sacred sites had been killed in the past
- They lied about not hunting in the area
- They lied about the mountains not being a sacred site
- They wanted to discourage other hikers from using sacred sites
- They forbad women attending sacred sites
- They could have interpreted lights in the sky (meteor/rocket) as a portent
- They knew the exact place to dig for rav-4 (probably conceded the tourists would never leave otherwise)
- Mansi belt found at cedar is evidence they had been there
- They, unlike hikers, had the means to cut branches and make a den (& could have been observing the tent)
- Forceably driving hikers off the mountain would explain why they fled the tent unequipped
- Encounter with Mansi mentioned in the hikers diary (maybe they were warned but did not understand)
- As mentioned by others above, they had more opportunity than locals (equipment, skills, local knowledge)
I'm also suspicious about the testimony of the search team, some knew more than they let on and misled the authorities (particularly Ivan Pashin).
I think there were other things going on in the group, Zolotaryov was probably there to monitor Krivonischenko and possibly others, and there might even have been something going on with radioactive materials, but the authorities were satisfied once all the bodies were found that nobody had defected so just closed it down. Perhaps they did a deal with the Mansi they wouldn't be prosecuted if they told them where the bodies were. They probably wanted to avoid further trouble between Russians and the Mansi, so just banned hikers from the mountain.
Next book on my list is Keith McCloskey - Mountain of the Dead.