Ukraine: Russian Hand Behind Spate of Bomb Scares at Schools Nationwide

The goal of the special services of the aggressor country is clear,” the SBU report stated. “To place additional pressure on Ukraine and to sow alarm and panic among the public. Unfortunately, such informational-psychological special operations are the reality of modern hybrid wars, and we have to face that.”

In addition to schools, government agencies, courts, railway stations, airports, and other key infrastructure elements have been targeted, using sophisticated software aimed at masking the source of the threats.

Scare Tactics?

On January 25, all 20 schools in Slovyansk, a city of some 100,000 people in the Donetsk region that in 2014 was briefly held by Russia-backed separatists at the start of their war against Kyiv but is now under government control, were also evacuated because of a bomb threat that turned out to be fake.

There was absolutely no panic among the teachers,” Svitlana Deleske, director of school No. 8 where 300 students were evacuated, told RFE/RL. “Everyone acted harmoniously, efficiently. Such things happen to us from time to time. For the children, however, it was unusual. Two little girls were in tears, and the homeroom teacher and I had to take them by the hand.”

Four hours after the false report came in, about one-third of the city’s 20 schools had been searched and cleared for reentry, the head of the city’s Education Department, Marina Khokhlova said.

Such false alarms have become a significant disruption for schools, administrators say. In addition, they place a considerable burden on police, the Emergency Situations Ministry, and other state agencies.

Many of the central schools in Chernihiv are located on major streets, and some of them have more than 1,000 students. When the false alarm came on January 24, schools were forced to set up perimeters, in many cases blocking streets and tying up transportation while security forces swept the buildings.

The United States, Ukraine, and other governments say Russia has amassed 100,000 or more troops near Ukraine’s borders and is preparing for a possible new invasion. The Kremlin denies any intentions to invade its neighbor but has suggested that de-escalation is conditional on binding guarantees that NATO will never expand further eastward, especially to Ukraine, among other things.

Despite compelling evidence, Moscow denies providing military support to separatists who hold parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in the eastern region known as the Donbas. The ongoing war between the Russia-backed forces and Ukraine’s government has killed more than 13,200 people since 2014.

Nina Bakhmach is a Chernihiv-based freelance contributor to RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service.RFE/RL senior correspondent Robert Coalson contributed to this report. This article is reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).