In May a wave of phony mining swept through Odessa. Within one month anonymous callers promised to blow up two bank departments, a court, hospital, school, building of the state border service and even a police department. Fortunately, none of the threats was confirmed. In one case police was disturbed by a kid, in another one - by an 83-year-old man, who could not explain motives of his action.

According to the statistics, phone terrorism becomes more and more popular in Ukraine, even despite the toughening of responsibility for knowingly false reports on security threats. Thus, earlier such false alarms were punished with a fine, arrest or custodial restraint. Now such kidders face imprisonment for 2-6 years. In case of repeated 'prank' offenders face 4-8 years of imprisonment. "Big bada boom" jokes are now considered as a grave offense, similar to pillage.

According to Interior Ministry data, police departments received 170 mining calls in 2011, resolved 99 criminal cases and found 96 offenders. In 2012 the numbers increased - 205 false reports on mining, 132 solved crimes and 118 arrested offenders.

Press office of the Prosecutor's General Office reports that for the past half a year there have been registered 190 criminal crimes on knowingly false reports on security threats, including explosions, fires, murders...

For them it is funny, for us frustrating

"Several years ago me and my husband were waiting for a night train. We were sitting in the waiting hall and I even fell asleep. Suddenly I was woken up by a policeman who told us to leave the building. When everyone was out they explained that someone called and reported a bomb in the station. The report was false, of course," Kyiv resident Zhenya told ForUm.

"It was at ninth grade. We were sitting in the classroom and writing tests on physics. Suddenly the door opened and someone asked us to leave the building immediately. The teacher did not let us go at first, said it was a lie and that we had to finish the test. Later we left the classroom of course and went out," Cherkassy city resident Zoya described mining of her school.  

According to the statistics, railway station is the most popular place among false miners. This year anonymous callers have threatened to blow up eight railway stations of Ukraine, and total schedule delay of trains has made 40 hours, press office of "Ukrzaliznytsya" reports. Along with railway stations, anonymous miners like subway, stores, coffee-shops, trade centers. Moreover, would-be terrorists mine educational institutions and administrative facilities. Sometimes it happens with trains and planes.

However, sometimes jokers step over the bounds of the standard list and mine maternity hospitals, for example. Such case happened last year in Luhansk. A couple of years ago, anonymous callers reported bomb in the Bila Tserkva Civil Registry Office. Even Odessa monastery has been pranked. In fact, it was one of the monks, who called and reported a bomb. The monk wanted to take revenge upon leaders for a conflict. Last year bomb technicians had to search for a bomb on Ternopil cemetery. Sometimes phone terrorists promise to blow up bridges.

Cause and consequence

In most cases jokers are drunken people. Then there are students, who want to disrupt classes. Many of them just do not realize the gravity of consequences and  inconveniences they create.

But if the first are inadequate, and the second are two young, what can we tell about adult people who call just for fun?  "It is thirst for control. People are not satisfied with their lives or lack self-esteem, so they call the police or fire brigades and enjoy them running around, meaning the caller enjoys those minutes of control he has over others. Another explanation may include the hero syndrome, or anti-hero in our case. Such people need to feel important so badly that they invent a reason for it - a bomb report, for example.

Such anti-heroes justify their actions as a public duty, like "I keep police focused", "I help them to improve", etc. Such offenders want to be good in the eyes of public, but do not have enough wits to do it in proper and constructive manner. Thus they take revenge by means of false reports - projection of anger with themselves for slow wits," psychologist and writer Nelly Verkhovska says.
However, sometimes motives include personal gain. In Zaporizhya, for example, a man reported a bomb in a store to shut down the place and find 50 dollars he lost there.  Some people call the hot line when they are late for a plane. During Euro-2012, for example, an upset Ukrainian fan "mined' Olympic stadium because he was not happy with the results of Ukraine-England match.

To be fair, reports are not always false. Sometimes people do spook at abandoned bags, suitcases or other suspicious objects. Thus, last autumn a cleaner of "Pecherska" metro station found a suspicious device in a garbage bin. The woman did not dare to check it by herself and called  rescuers. The station was temporary shut down, but it turned out those were fireworks straws. Such cases, though, are rare in Ukraine, and of course, law enforcement officials do not punish precautious people.

One fool makes many

Russia, for example, does not lag behind in the rate of "mining", though the punishment is not as  severe as in Ukraine. Jokers often pay fines or go for correctional labour. The severest punishment imposed by Russian court is imprisonment for up to three years. In Belarus, authorities punish phone terrorists with imprisonment for up to five years, but practice shows offenders stay in prison for two years maximum. Such phones pranks are popular not only in CIS countries. "Bad guys" mine Eiffel Tower in Paris and even Chinese planes, except that in China such situations are taken very seriously. According to the law, such jokes in China are prisonable offence - up to 15 years. 

Meantime, would-be terrorists start "conquering" social networks. In Particular, a private school teacher and a radio presenter spread false reports that gunmen were attacking schools in the south-eastern city of Veracruz. The resulting panic caused dozens of car crashes after parents rushed to save their children from schools across the city and jammed emergency telephone lines, which "totally collapsed" under the pressure. A man and a woman are facing 30-year prison terms for causing panic, violence and chaos.

As we can see, Ukraine is not the severest country regarding the punishment for would-be terrorists. Lawmakers of many countries toughen responsibility for such phone jokes proceeding from the logic of national security. Well, sense of humor is a good quality of a person, but only unless and until it threatens life and health of other people.

Alina Yeremeyeva


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