As police evacuated the embassy of Spain in Moscow on September 26, attention returned to the epidemic of false bomb threats plaguing Russia. Throughout September, Russia has received over 190 separate bomb threats across 17 cities, as reported by RT. These incidents have affected nearly 150,000 citizens in almost 500 private and public buildings like schools, malls, and movie theaters.
According to Russian officials in the city of Chelyabinsk, there is “reason to assume this was all organized abroad.” An unnamed source told RBC that “the anonymous internet phone calls were tracked to an IP-address in Ukraine.” Russia has been militarily involved in Ukraine for over three years, understandably resulting in tensions between the nations.
As of September 29, these threats have continued to grow in size and severity. In Russia’s North Caucasus region of North Ossetia, “hundreds of people” were evacuated from 18 buildings. In Moscow, news agencies reported 20 more buildings being emptied due to anonymous phone calls.
Though most Russian state news outlets report the Ukrainian origin of the calls, other theories on the origin of the bomb calls include the Orthodox Christian group Christian State–Holy Rus (CS-HR). The group’s leader, Alexander Kalinin, in an interview with the news outlet Meduza, said that the initial calls to movie theaters were done in protest to the showing of a new film, Matilda. The film concerns the love affair of Tsar Nicholas II and is sacrilege to CS-HR’s beliefs. However, he maintains that members of his party did not issue the threats outside of the cinemas.
Copy-cat callers, mainly teenagers in major metropolitan areas using landline telephones that are easy to track, have been arrested. As of September 29, the Russian police have opened several investigations into the spree of calls and claim that a group of individuals has been identified as suspects, and they have been placed on an international blacklist.
In the wake of these calls, it should be mentioned that reporting fabricated terror attacks can be punish
ed by up to five years in prison under Russian law. The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, publicly stated that these threats amount to “nothing more than telephone terrorism…all necessary measures are being taken to identify the perpetrators of the bomb threats.”