By Paul Goble
Persons as yet unknown Monday night telephoned the police in more than ten Russian cities (but not Moscow or St. Petersburg) saying that there were bombs planted in schools, railway and bus stations, and stores, calls that forced the authorities to evacuate many of these places and that have spread confusion and fear.
In Perm, nine schools, the railway station, two trade centers, and the city administration were shut down as a precaution; in Krasnoyarsk, seven stores and trade centers; in Vladivostok, five trade centers, several magazines and apartment blocks; in Chelyabinsk, ten trade and entertainment centers; in Magadan, two theaters, a market, four schools and two universities; in Yekaterinburg, a trade and business center; in Ufa, seven trade centers; in Omsk, the city administration, movie theaters, schools and a hotel; in Bryansk more than ten trade centers; in Novosibirsk, an automobile station, a hotel and clubs; in Ryazan, 11 trade centers; and in Vladivostok, several theaters (https://meduza.io/news/2017/09/12/v-krupnyh-gorodah-po-vsey-rossii-iz-za-anonimnyh-zvonkov-evakuiruyut-shkoly-vuzy-vokzaly-i-torgovye-tsentry and rosbalt.ru/russia/2017/09/12/1645453.html).
The authorities were clearly unsettled by this, Rosbalt says. In some places, the police said this was all an anti-terrorist exercise; in others, that it was the result of telephone terrorism, leading to speculation that these cases were somehow connected to showings of the controversial Mathilda film or that the calls came from outside of Russia.
What will happen next remains to be seen, but here are two immediate thoughts. On the one hand, this is an indication of how easy it is for such “telephone terrorists” to spread fear and how difficult it is for the authorities to counter that. They simply can’t take the risk of ignoring such reports because one or more of them might be true.
And on the other, such a wave of “telephone terrorism” at least potentially could be used by the authorities to launch a new wave of repression, given that they would likely be deferred to by a population fearful that Russia may be again about to slip into serious disorders.