"We will hope that a meeting may still take place," the Soviet official said.

No, not a meeting with U.S. representatives on nuclear arms reductions. Andrei Kozlov has bigger things in mind.

Kozlov, who has headed expeditions of the Alpine Expedition Department of the Soviet Geographical Society for 13 years, is hoping for a face-to-face session with Bigfoot, or the Abominable Snowman, and he hopes to lure him with "aromatic bait" and then tame him. Why? To prove that the creature exists.

The debate about Bigfoot, or the yeti, as he is known in the Himalayas, is not dead in the Soviet Union.

Last April, the Soviet news agency Tass quoted Vadim Ranov, described as a well-known explorer and member of the Soviet Geographical Society, as stating flatly, "I deny the existence of Bigfoot."

Now, this week Kozlov, in an interview with the newspaper Socialist Industry, came out staunchly in defense of the Snowy Man, as the mysterious creature is called here.

Since the 1960s the Alpine Expedition Department of the Soviet Geographical Society has gathered information on the "relic hominoid" from uninhabited regions of the Caucasus and Tyan-Shan mountains.

In the interview, Kozlov, a staff member of the Perm Medical Institute, cited 5,000 descriptions of sightings of the creature in the Soviet Union and claimed about 50 alabaster impressions had been made of its footprints.

From the sightings and other research, Kozlov has concluded that the Abominable Snowman is a more ordinary creature than myth would have it.

"Contrary to legend, it is of average human size -- few are taller than 2 meters [6 feet 6 inches]. Their weight -- more than 200 kilos [440 pounds]. And they have a long stride -- from 1 to 1 1/2 meters [3 feet 3 inches to 4 feet 10 1/2]," he said. Its hair resembles neither that of man nor beast.

According to Kozlov, the creature lives alone, avoiding groups, and inhabits mountain forests, not the snow zone: hence, he points out, its name is hardly apt.

Kozlov also has made some precise deductions about the Snowman's daily life. It sleeps in the daytime on a bed or grasses or branches; toward dusk, it goes off to hunt.

But the Snowman is not aggressive by nature, Kozlov was quick to add. It has only attacked humans five times out of the 5,000 sightings, and then only when they attacked it, he said.

Kozlov made the argument that the Snowman is a relic of Neanderthal man who was pushed up into the mountains by the mentally superior Homo sapiens.

It was precisely this argument that Ranov put to the test last April, noting that according to the theory of evolution, it would be impossible for a species to forget acquired skills such as making stone tools.

In Ranov's view, so-called tracks of the Snowman can be explained easily by the effects of the sun's rays on animal footprints. He also pointed out that the hide described as belonging to a Snowman fits the description of the blue bear.

In the beginning of his interview, published on Saturday, Kozlov conceded that members of his team had "become used to critiques and irony," but defended their careful research. He blamed the press for sensationalizing the story, complaining that ". . . when information about the work of our expeditions appears in the popular press without qualified explanations, it then gives rise to unhealthy sensations."

To settle the score with skeptics, Kozlov admitted that he needs conclusive proof of the creature's existence. And for that, he needs to capture one.