POLICE searching for a Russian student missing for more than seven months are investigating the discovery of a body in Argyll.
Walkers stumbled across the badly decomposed human remains in woodland off the A83 near Arrochar on Thursday. The remains were not buried and are believed to have been partly wrapped in plastic.
The grisly discovery is being linked to missing 22-year-old Yulia Solodyankina, who was studying physics at Edinburgh University before she mysteriously vanished last summer. The Russian was reported missing on June 12, six days after leaving a gig at the Wee Red Bar in Lady Lawson Street in Edinburgh when she complained to friends of feeling unwell.
No formal identification has taken place but it is understood that police are linking the discovery to the search for Solodyankina, whose case had previously been treated as a missing person's inquiry.
It is thought recent heavy rain in the area may have caused soil to shift and expose the remains.
The development appears to rule out earlier media speculation that the body may have been that of murdered Edinburgh book-keeper Suzanne Pilley whose killer, former lover David Gilroy, is believed to have dumped her remains in a wooded area in Argyll.
The remains were found at a beauty spot police had combed in their hunt for the 38-year-old's remains three years ago, but unconfirmed reports yesterday claimed that police were sure the discovery was not related to the Pilley case.
A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: "Police Scotland can confirm human remains were found in a rural location near to Arrochar on Thursday, January 9.
"Further examination of the remains will take place. The inquiry is at a very early stage and nothing further is available at this time."
Solodyankina, a keen dancer, is known to have travelled to Glasgow on June 7 - the day after leaving the music show early - although it is not known why she made the journey.
A police search of her flat found she had left behind her passport, mobile phone, purse and laptop, and fears were raised that she may have fled the city to escape exam stress, with reports claiming she had visited suicide websites days before vanishing.
She was last spotted on CCTV at Glasgow's Buchanan Street bus station at around 4.55pm on June 7 and is believed to have travelled to the north or far west of Scotland.
Friends mounted a high-profile publicity campaign on Facebook and distributed "Yulia is Missing" fliers and posters around Edinburgh and Glasgow in a bid to trace the missing student. They urged her to come home or contact loved ones, but the efforts have been in vain.
Since disappearing, the physics student has missed her graduation ceremony and has not been in touch with friends, family or her boyfriend, 21-year-old Antoine Dao.
Her father, Moscow businessman Dmitry Solodyankina, travelled to Edinburgh as the police investigation concentrated on the north or far west of Scotland, where it is thought the student got a bus to after leaving Glasgow.
A possible sighting on Mull was checked but led nowhere.
The dramatic revelations that police were linking the body found in Argyll find to Solodyankina's disappearance overturns months of speculation that she may have taken her own life. Reports in September claimed the student was "very stressed" during her final-year exams at Edinburgh University and realised she had failed to get an honours degree.
It was also reported that Solodyankina had viewed suicide websites in the run-up to her disappearance and an anonymous police source was quoted as saying detectives examining her computer had yielded "a disturbing possible clue".
The discovery of the body comes less than two weeks after friend Graham Clark posted an impassioned statement on the Yulia Is Missing Facebook page.
He said: "We are still looking for Yulia. It has been over six months since she went missing, and her friends and family have not forgotten her.
"We need to know that she is safe and well. Our thoughts are with her family in Russia at this difficult time."
A body has been found in the search for a missing Inverness airport worker.
Alexander Prentice, 53, was last seen on Friday morning at his workplace.
Police and rescue teams found a body during searches of the Dalcross area near the airport.
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: "A report on the circumstances is being prepared for the procurator fiscal.
"Rescue teams and members of the public who responded to the earlier appeals and assisted with information are thanked for their support."