Nearly 100,000 people have been evacuated from airports, schools and government buildings across Russia, including an iconic department store on Red Square, amid a wave of fake bomb threats that officials called unprecedented.
“There’s never been anything like this before, it’s 100 percent organized telephone terrorism,” Frants Klintsevich, deputy head of the Defense Committee in the upper house of parliament, said in a telephone interview. “The only goal is to set off destructive processes, to sow panic.”
In Moscow, the hoaxes led to the clearing of the GUM shopping complex, across Red Square from the Kremlin, as well as several other major malls, universities, hotels and train stations. Sheremetyevo airport, the capital’s busiest, tightened security after a threat, Interfax reported. The official Tass news agency, citing an unnamed security-service source, said more than 50,000 people had been evacuated in the capital after about 100 threats.
That came a day after 45,000 people had been evacuated Tuesday from 205 buildings in 22 cities across Russia in similar hoaxes, RIA reported. Many were city halls, schools and other official buildings, according to local news reports. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred questions on the issue to the security services. The Interior Ministry and Security Council declined to comment.
Threats and evacuations outside the capital also were reported today, in cities ranging from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the Far East, across Siberia, to Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. Three shopping malls in Moscow also were cleared after calls reporting bombs, Tass reported. Police were also investigating threats at several train stations. RIA said a total of 190 buildings in 17 cities were affected.
The anonymous calls came from Internet dialing systems and couldn’t easily be traced, official news agencies reported. Initial reports indicated the evacuations might have been some kind of exercise.
“It’s possible this could be preparatory work for a serious terrorist attack,” Klintsevich said.