Russian airlines caught in fake bomb threats problem
Aeroflot’s domestic flight SU1392 took off from Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) on March 19, 2020. En route to Perm Bolshoye Savino Airport (PEE), the pilots of Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B issued a squawk 7700, declaring an emergency. Reportedly, an anonymous caller warned that explosives had been placed on the flight. Yet despite the distress signal, SU1392 did not divert from its course and landed at its destination as per usual.
The reason for what appears to be a shocking calmness when faced with a bomb threat might be the fact that fake bomb reports are becoming somewhat a norm for Russian airlines and airports.
On March 19 alone, six bomb threats were reported on domestic flights in one day, the country’s news agency TASS reported the same day, citing a source in law enforcement. Since the beginning of the month, no less than 30 passenger planes have received similar threats.
In fact, these false bomb reports in aviation are part of a larger wave. Anonymous callers routinely report explosives allegedly placed in schools, hospitals, stations, courts and other facilities. According to Russian authorities, as reported in local media, all the previous threats turned out to be false.
The phenomena of massive bomb scares in Russia can be traced back to September 2017. At first, the false calls would prompt massive evacuations. For instance, in mid-September 2017, the Moscow Times reported that no less 100,000 people had been evacuated in two dozen Russian cities, since the beginning of the wave. Russian government officials even called the phenomena “telephone terrorism”.
Various groups were suspected to be behind the threats, which have been made through encrypted messengers and anonymous calling services online: from Ukrainians, with whom Russia has been engaged in a war in Crimea, to Islamic State terrorist groups. In 2019, Russian security service blocked at least two encrypted email services, believed to be used to send the scares.
Meanwhile, as anonymous threats about bombs on planes keep coming, flight crews in Russia are seemingly getting used to the situation. Only the first two times in the 30 above mentioned cases pilots requested emergency landings, according to TASS. The following 28 flights completed their routes to stipulated destinations. In all these cases, no bombs were found.
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