Tuesday, October 3, 2017

As Telephone Terrorism in Russia Enters Its Fourth Week, Official Worries Multiply

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 3 – As the anonymous telephone bomb threats in Russia enter their fourth week and spread to major cities like Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, and Moscow, official worries about what may happen next if a real bomb explosion occurs, Russians resist evacuation, or something like that happens during next year’s World Cup competition.

            With each passing day, Igor Chukreyev of the URA news agency says, Russian experts increasingly fear real terrorists will use this wave of anonymous calls to plant a real bomb, Russians will grow tired of being evacuated when no bombs are found, and Moscow will face both during international sports events (ura.news/articles/1036272460).

            Worries about these things have given new urgency to discussions about how the authorities should talk about this situation, something the central media have been loath to do although in the cities where the bomb threats have been the most common, officials have had no choice but to provide some information.

            The central question now, Chukreyev says, is whether they should provide more, including discussions about what is going on and how things are likely to develop.  Valery Gorelykh, a Yekaterinburg MVD official, says that the authorities must be careful lest what they say increase rather than reduce the nervousness of the population.

            “Undoubtedly,” he continues, “it is necessary to inform the public about what is happening … but this must be done in a sophisticated way” or Russians will become either more worried or more cynical. After all, his colleagues say, in Yekaterinburg alone in the last few days, there have been 167 false reports about bombs and some 70,000 people evacuated.

            Not talking about what is going on, officials say, “only intensifies the sense of weakness of the authorities. But the position of the law enforcement organs is understandable: first one must understand and only then report.”  There must be a positive message but not one that suggests officials are out of touch.

            This is especially important as Russia enters into an election season  and as international sports competitions take place, although in the case of the latter, interior ministry officials say that the rules for coverage and for the response of the authorities are very different as was shown during the Sochi Olympics.

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