Ukrainians cope with fake bomb threats as Moscow mounts hybrid war

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Amid fears of a Russian military attack, Ukrainians are also coping with a wave of fake bomb threats as Moscow mounts a hybrid war to sow panic among the public, according to Ukrainian security services. FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reports from the central Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr.

Alla Vashchenko, a Ukrainian police officer, drives through the snow-covered streets of Zhytomyr to get to the site of the latest bomb alert.

“We got an email saying they’d planted bombs in all the city’s educational establishments and shopping malls,” explains Vashchenko.

There’s no sign of panic in her voice; in fact Vashchenko sounds slightly resigned. That’s because this is the eleventh time this year that she has responded to a bomb alert just in Zhytomyr.

Nationwide, Ukrainian police had to check more than 3,000 sites for bombs in the first three weeks of 2022 alone. All were false alerts.

Ukrainian authorities blame Russia for what they call a hybrid war.

“This is an element of the hybrid war. To create chaos, uncertainty about tomorrow, and a constant state of stress. So that schools have to switch to distance learning, and businesses close,” explained Zhytomyr Mayor Serhiy Sukhomlyn.

The incessant fake alerts can be stressful for parents, but Ukrainian school authorities are working with police departments to handle the attempts to destabilise the populace with minimum disruptions.

At Zhytomyr’s School No. 22, for example, the authorities decided not to evacuate the pupils.

“We’ve created a group bringing together parents and employees of the school to check on these threats. With the help of the police we did everything very efficiently and quickly without evacuating the pupils,” explained the school’s deputy director, Tetyana Antoniuk.

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