Mass evac­u­a­tions as Rus­sia is plagued with bomb warn­ings

Marlborough Express - - WORLD -

RUS­SIA: More than 45,000 peo­ple have been evac­u­ated from 200 ‘‘tar­gets’’ in dozens of Rus­sian cities af­ter a wave of anony­mous bomb threats was made over the past three days, amid spec­u­la­tion of ei­ther for­eign in­ter­fer­ence or a do­mes­tic anti-ter­ror drill.

Yes­ter­day, 15,000 peo­ple were evac­u­ated from places in Moscow, in­clud­ing Red Square, af­ter calls were made to shop­ping cen­tres, three rail­way sta­tions and at least four uni­ver­si­ties.

Anony­mous call­ers are re­ported to be us­ing the in­ter­net to alert emer­gency ser­vices or fa­cil­i­ties di­rectly, claim­ing places have ex­plo­sive de­vices hid­den in­side.

Since Septem­ber 11 dozens of schools, uni­ver­si­ties, malls, rail­way sta­tions, air­ports and gov­ern- ment of­fices have been evac­u­ated and in­spected by po­lice in 29 cities all over Rus­sia - from Kalin­ingrad in the west to Vladi­vos­tok in the far east. No traces of ex­plo­sive de­vices have been found in any of the build­ings, the Me­duza news out­let re­ports.

Anony­mous sources in law en­force­ment told the In­ter­fax news agency that the mass evac­u­a­tions were prompted by a spam at­tack ‘‘mas­ter­minded from abroad’’. The state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited an­other anony­mous source that said bomb threats were ‘‘com­ing from Ukraine’’.

But sev­eral re­gional news out­lets quoted uniden­ti­fied mil­i­tary of­fi­cials who main­tain that the evac­u­a­tions are part of an an­titer­ror ex­er­cise, per­formed in prep- ara­tion for the stag­ing of next year’s foot­ball World Cup fi­nals.

An ad­min­is­tra­tor of a mall in Bryansk told the Kom­m­er­sant news­pa­per that the num­ber dis­played on her phone had 15 fig­ures in it and started with +88, the coun­try code for Bangladesh.

The caller spoke in Rus­sian and told her to ‘‘leave the build­ing’’ be­cause ‘‘there is a bomb in­side’’.

The most re­cent call iden­ti­fied Red Square, the main tourist at­trac­tion in Moscow, next to the Krem­lin, as a sup­posed tar­get.

In all cities, in­ves­ti­ga­tions have been opened into ‘‘know­ingly false re­ports of a pos­si­ble ex­plo­sion’’, a crim­i­nal of­fence in Rus­sia pun­ish­able by up to five years in prison.

Dmitry Peskov, the Krem­lin spokesman, re­fused to com­ment on the sit­u­a­tion yes­ter­day and redi­rected all in­quiries to Rus­sia’s se­cu­rity ser­vices.

Rus­sia’s law en­force­ment bod­ies so far have made no of­fi­cial state­ment.

The calls were dif­fi­cult to trace be­cause they were made over the in­ter­net and pro­cessed by dif­fer­ent servers, in­clud­ing ones abroad, said Gen­nady Gud­kov, a Moscow­based se­cu­rity ex­pert and for­mer par­lia­men­tar­ian.

‘‘That’s why the law en­force­ment hasn’t been able to catch any­one so far,’’ he said, adding that the wave of calls was likely to be a crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion test­ing new tech­nolo­gies rather than an an­titer­ror drill, be­cause peo­ple would usu­ally be warned of a drill in ad­vance. - Tele­graph Group


A se­cu­rity guard blocks the en­trance to the State De­part­ment Store, GUM, due to a bomb threat in cen­tral Moscow.

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