Staunton, March 16 – Since last September, telephone bomb threats have led to the evacuation of more than three million Russians in thousands of buildings in hundreds of cities and towns across the Russian Federation, something the government-controlled Moscow media have only provided sporadic reports about.
But for those forced to exit the buildings as a result of these false bomb reports – and fortunately, there has not been a single incident in which a bomb exploded or was even found – and for officials who are compelled to react lest a particular threat prove true, this has been an unnerving time.
Indeed, Kamilzhan Kalandarov, the head of the Institute for Human Rights, and Yana Amelina, the coordinator of the Caucasus Geopolitical Club, say that “false reports about bombs” such as one that emptied a school in Rostov last week are destabilizing the situation in advance of the elections” (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/317845/).
Unlike in most cases, the person responsible for the telephone threat has been caught; but that doesn’t lessen the concerns of many. The mother of one student said she was skeptical about such calls because she remembered her own youth in the early 1990s when students who didn’t want to take a test would telephone a bomb threat so school would be called off.
But others are more worried, the Kavkaz Uzel news agency reports. Another Rostov mother said she was now considering home schooling for her children. But it suggested most residents are satisfied with the way the authorities have responded in a calm way.
Kalandarov for his part says that the telephone bomb threats are “directed toward weakening the sense of security people have; but they have had the unintended consequence of increasing “the vigilance of people.” He said tough new laws were not enough to end this plague and urged that social censure be stepped up against those who make such calls.
He complains that the authorities aren’t providing enough information about the perpetrators. “But we should know about this,, they must be shamed before their neighbors, relatives and colleagues.” And they shouldn’t be dismissed as “hooliganism.” Such attacks are “terrorism pure and simple.”
The rights activist says that “’definite forces’” are behind these telephone threats and hope to use them to destabilize the country especially as it heads toward the presidential election. Such threats can spread fear and lead people to stay home rather than going to the polls and voting.
Amelina, a specialist on the North Caucasus, agrees. It is obvious, she says, that reports about such threats are spread through the Internet by those who want to spread “hysteria and fear” and thus “destabilize the situation in one or another region of Russia” by reducing public confidence in the authorities.
She says she has been “somewhat surprised” that there haven’t been more such incidents, a pattern that she credited to the good work of the law enforcement agencies. But more needs to be done both by state organs and by propaganda in the population so that people will know “about the real situation” as far as security is concerned.