Staunton, May 14 – Telephone bomb threats in Russia have become so common that Russian police are exploiting the situation by charging potential protesters with being behind them, a tactic that allows the authorities to hold such people even without evidence for 48 hours and thus disrupt their ability to organize demonstrations.
This tactic, which has been documented over the last two weeks in St. Petersburg, is easier for the police to use than to open criminal cases against protesters and effective in that it gets those who want to protest out of the way without imposing real burdens on investigators and the legal system.
(For interviews with the victims of this tactic and with anonymous officials who confirm this is what they are doing, see fontanka.ru/2022/03/05/70489001/, paperpaper.ru/kak-siloviki-izobreli-i-oprobovali-no/#stk-3 and meduza.io/feature/2022/05/14/politsiya-peterburga-pridumala-novyy-sposob-izolyatsii-aktivistov-nakanune-mitingov-ih-ob-yavlyayut-podozrevaemymi-v-telefonnom-terrorizme-i-zaderzhivayut-na-48-chasov
As a tactic, this approach may serve the police well; but as a strategy, it may come back to haunt the authorities more generally. That is because it is likely to lead ever more Russians to view all bomb threats as the work of the anti-war underground even when they are not and thus conclude that popular resistance to Putin’s war in Ukraine is even greater than it is.