Fake-terrorism epidemic in Russia

A series of anonymous messages about bombs being planted in universities, temples, shops, courts, and TV stations throughout Russia over the last few weeks has been a real test of the police’s ability to quickly respond.

Lately, Russian police authorities have been receiving numerous email messages with information about bombs being planted in various places. Over 50 buildings throughout Russia, including the majority of universities, have been claimed to have explosives during the last week. And since the beginning of the year there were about 125 messages about explosive devices being planted in Moscow alone. In each case a complete evacuation was carried out, only to find no sign of any bombs.

However, during a search in the Rostov region on Tuesday officers did find a bag with a grenade launcher and a pile of grenades.

Wednesday has brought another set of anonymous messages about bombs planted in several higher education facilities, including Moscow State University, and most of the courts of Kabardino-Balkarian Republic and the Republic of North Ossetia. All Wednesday’s tip-offs are turning out to be hoaxes and sniffer-dogs have been unable find a scent of explosives anywhere.

Some people associate this epidemic with a usual spring recrudescence of psychological disorders, but psychotherapist Jeannot Hoareau would rather link it to the media’s extensive coverage of the real terrorist attacks which he says creates psychic contagion.

“Media brings too much attention to the event and starts psychic contagion,” he told RT. “Somebody starts, others repeat. People with psychological disorders tend to associate themselves with the event, they enjoy everybody talking about the thing they’ve done. It is much like a kind of voyeurism.”

“It is a common situation for fake-bombing messages to go off scale for several months after some tragedy,” stated a representative of the Main Internal Affairs Directorate as quoted by Ria-Novosti.

Fake-terrorists indeed became much more active after the blast at Domodedovo Airport, and Moscow police received 26 messages during the first few days following it. They have already initiated 60 criminal cases over hoaxes since the beginning of 2011, which is roughly twice as many as during the same period of the previous year. The on site searches are expensive and can cost up to 1.5 million roubles (about $50,000). Some of the bomb disposal groups had to carry out several operations a day, finding nothing.

Statistically, most hoax callers are students who do not really think about the three-year-long prison sentence they can face if caught. The authorities are eager to find the pranksters, but not a single recent suspect has been arrested so far. As long as they are using email instead of traditional unregistered mobile phones, the culprits are harder to catch.

Checking all the apparent tip-offs takes a lot of police resources, while the real explosions generally happen without notification, like the recent blast near the Federal Security Service Academy on March 9 and twin-explosions near an apartment building in the north-east of Moscow on March 11.

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