Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Telephone Bomb Threats Again Forcing Evacuations from One End of Russia to the Other

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 22 – After a brief respite late last fall, telephone bomb threats are again, in the wake of the Magnitogorsk tragedy, forcing the evacuations of Russians from schools, hospitals, airports, railway stations, and apartment blocks in cities and towns across the Russian Federation.

            The only difference from a similar spate of such calls between September 2017 and October 2018, when more than a million Russians had to be evacuated, is that many of the threats are coming in via the Internet rather than by phone (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/09/more-than-million-russians-have-been.html and

            But three things remain the same: First, the Moscow media have largely ignored these cases except when they happen within the city. Second, the threats have in all cases been found to be without foundation and only a few of those who have made them have been arrested. And third, these attacks have exacerbated Russian fears about today and tomorrow in their country.

            Two URA news agency journalists, Stanislav Zakharkin and Mikhail Bely spoke with specialists in the siloviki and the expert community about this plague. The experts were unanimous that such false reports will spread because some people not prepared to engage in violence enjoy sparking fear in society (ura.news/articles/1036277360).

                This presents real dangers to Russia, the experts said. On the one hand, there simply aren’t enough police personnel to track down all the leads and arrest the perpetrators, something that gives those who engage in these actions a feeling of security.  And on the other, real terrorists will make use of these waves of false telephone terrorism.

            They can do so either by engaging in it themselves to undermine social cohesion or by counting on the authorities to be unable to track them if it they are trying to find telephone terrorists.  In either case, some of them will get through; and that possibility too spreads the kind of panic throughout society on which terrorists thrive.

                The return of telephone terrorism is not the only unfortunate revenant on public view in Russia. First, Russian athletes are again having to compete under neutral flags because of doping (sport-express.ru/athletics/news/iaaf-odobrila-zayavki-lasickene-shubenkova-i-esche-40-legkoatletov-rf-1503206/).

            Second, activism among long haul truckers appears to be resuming at precisely the time that shortages in some stores are occurring, thus giving the drivers the kind of leverage which may gain them more success than earlier (forum-msk.org/material/news/15360776.html).

And today, in a real throwback, a passenger on a domestic Russian route tried to hijack it to Afghanistan. His plot was foiled, but it revived some unfortunate memories (znak.com/2019-01-22/passazhir_reysa_surgut_moskva_potreboval_napravit_samolet_v_afganistan).

These things are not related, but they come together in the minds of people, adding to a sense of anger and hopelessness about the future that cannot fail to have consequences for how Russians think about their country and its current leadership. 

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