In Russia and Ukraine, a strange wave of false bomb threats



The sequence that occurred on the morning of January 24 in the Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih (center of the country) would almost be routine these days. In a letter transferred to the local police around 8 a.m., an anonymous man threatens to blow up all the schools in the city “in time”. A threat quickly followed by an orderly evacuation for schoolchildren who had just returned to school on Monday: another false bomb alert the previous week had already sent them to distance learning.

Since the beginning of the year alone, there have been 340 such alerts, which have forced the inspection or evacuation of more than 3,100 buildings across Ukraine. “It was very stressful for the children, some were crying. Is this how the Kremlin tests our nerves? », wondered on social networks Daria Kaleniouk, a Ukrainian activist witnessed one of these false alarms in the capital. Because after having denounced a large-scale cyberattack on January 14, and while Western chancelleries have been warning since October of the arrival of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, the power of Kiev sees in this wave of false bomb threats a component of the “hybrid warfare” led by Moscow.

The same phenomenon is taking place, at the same time, on the other side of the border: Russia has also been affected, since the end of last year, by similar false bomb threats, which have led to thousands of evacuations in at least 18 cities across the country. Thus, on January 12, in Yekaterinburg, an email ending with “you are all going to die” forced authorities to evacuate 163 schools in the city. Threats sometimes take the form of messages sent by the Telegram application or simple phone calls, most often relayed by servers making it possible to anonymize the identity of the sender.

The phenomenon, which is therefore not limited to Ukraine, is not new. In 2017, nearly a week of false bomb threats in several cities in Russia forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, from schools in the city of Perm (Urals) to the luxury Moscow shopping center Goum, a few steps from Red Square. Security sources then mentioned a “Ukrainian track” which will be regularly mentioned during the new waves which will occur in the following years. However, these geopolitical hypotheses can be mixed with more trivial reasons: for several schoolchildren arrested on January 21 in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk, the bomb threats were simply “a joke”, according to a source cited by the Tass agency.

Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, meanwhile, counted more than 1,100 false bomb threats last year, up from 1,000 in 2020 and 1,800 the previous year. No doubt for Kiev, which ensures that the majority of calls or messages sent come from Russia, or eastern Ukraine, controlled by separatist groups supported by Moscow. ” What is the goal ? Spread panic? Yes. Exhaust the law enforcement tasked with verifying these bomb threats? Yes “, thus assures the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior, Denys Monastyrsky. The State Emergency Service called the wave of acts of “informal terrorismnational ».

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