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21 November 2017 Last updated 41 minutes ago

Over 20,000 evacuated across Moscow over various bomb threats – reports

Over 20,000 evacuated across Moscow over various bomb threats – reports @RT

More than 20,000 people were evacuated from over 30 shopping centers, railway stations and universities in Moscow, following “almost simultaneous” warnings that they had been rigged with explosives. So far, no bombs have been found at any of the locations. Ruptly and RT crews across Moscow are feeding live footage from the scenes of the evacuations.

“This appears to be a case of telephone terrorism, but we have to check the credibility of these messages,” an emergency service source told Tass news agency, noting that the calls began at the same time, and continued after the evacuations had begun.

Emergency services said that police units including explosives specialists and officers with sniffer dogs are examining the buildings.

Among the locations affected are three of the capital's biggest railway stations, more than a dozen shopping centers – including GUM, located next to Red Square – and at least three universities, the leading First Moscow State Medical University, and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations among them.

Tass reported that the railway timetable remained unaffected by the police operation. Social media accounts show bemused crowds milling passively outside evacuated buildings, and there have been no reports of disturbances of public order.

An epidemic of hoax bomb warnings has plagued Russia over the past week. Security services told the RIA news agency that over 45,000 people were evacuated from public places in 22 Russian cities on Tuesday, adding that many of the calls appeared to have come from Ukraine.

Terrorist false alarms are punishable by up to five years in prison under Russian law, and multiple police investigations have been opened. However, the possibility that the hoaxers are using pre-recorded messages, automated dialing systems and digital means of concealing their true location present difficulties in identifying the culprits.