Over 45,000 evacuated across Russia after bomb hoaxes

MOSCOW • More than 45,000 people have been evacuated from airports, schools and government buildings across Russia over the last two days, amid a wave of fake bomb threats that officials called unprecedented, Bloomberg reported yesterday.

"There has never been anything like this before. It is 100 per cent organised telephone terrorism," Mr Frants Klintsevich, deputy head of the Defence Committee in Russia's Upper House of Parliament, said in a phone interview.

He added: "The only goal is to set off destructive processes; to sow panic.

"It is possible this could be preparatory work for a serious terrorist attack."

All alerts have proved to be hoaxes and the authorities have urged the public to stay calm, the BBC said yesterday.

The official RIA Novosti news agency quoted an unnamed source in the security services as saying that 45,000 people had been evacuated on Tuesday from 205 buildings in 22 cities.

Many were city halls, schools and other official buildings, Bloomberg reported, citing local news reports.

The Interior Ministry and Security Council declined to comment.

More threats and evacuations were reported yesterday in cities ranging from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the far east, across Siberia, to Kaliningrad along the Baltic Coast.

Three shopping malls in Moscow were also cleared after there were calls reporting about bombs, said Russian news agency Tass.

Police were also investigating threats at several train stations.

The anonymous calls came from Internet dialling systems and could not be easily traced, official news agencies reported.

"Each call is being checked. Emergency services are working. Police dogs will be used to track down the bombs," a source from an emergency service told Tass.

Initial reports indicated that the evacuations might have been some kind of exercise. But Mr Klintsevich and other officials said yesterday that the source could have been in Ukraine.

"There is reason to assume this was all organised abroad," an official in Chelyabinsk, a city in south- west Russia, told Interfax news agency.

State TV channels did not appear keen on covering the threats, despite pro-Kremlin newspapers pointing to a "major hacking attack", possibly from Ukraine, the BBC reported yesterday.

Russia has been hit by militant attacks, including a bombing on the St Petersburg metro in April in which 16 people died.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2017, with the headline 'Over 45,000 evacuated across Russia after bomb hoaxes'. Print Edition | Subscribe