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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Night Train Robberies: What If You Wake Up?

If you are lucky, you will wake up as a thief tries to break into your train compartment, and he will scamper away down the corridor. The unlucky will wake up in the morning to find their belongings gone.

On a recent Moscow-St. Petersburg overnighter, one passenger did succeed in waking up and chasing down the two thieves.

Night train robberies have become increasingly common against foreigners in recent years, and the St. Petersburg expresses are a particular favorite because of the many foreigners aboard.

The criminal's first task is to identify the victim, either by patrolling the hallways or by seeking out foreigners with the conductor's help.

Then, they wait for a deep sleep to set in. If the thieves are working with the conductor, they might also spike the evening tea to assist the process.

During the thick of the night, the criminals, typically working in pairs, strike. They open the main lock through a pass key similar to the one carried by the conductor, and jimmy the side lock through the edge of the door, police say. On train No. 6 to St. Petersburg, one passenger also tied the lock to the wall with an electrical extension cord as extra security. In the end, the cord proved valuable, not because it kept out the thieves, but because they made so much noise cutting it with a knife that the passenger awoke before any plundering had begun.

The passenger's fist slamming on the door alerted the criminals that he had awakened and thus kept them out of the room. Then, a chase began. The two men ran from wagon 15 towards wagon 14, slamming the several connecting doors behind them.

Yet the doors slowed down the thieves sufficiently to allow the passenger to come face to face with them outside the bathroom in wagon 14. Of the two men, the smaller appeared gripped with terror. He was short, in his 30s, with high cheek bones, pockmarked skin and unshaven stubble. His nose appeared to have been broken in previous fights.

Facing two men, at least one of whom was armed with a knife, the passenger retreated to find conductor Konstantin Terashevich, who responded slowly enough for the two thieves to block the door leading to wagon 14. After a several-minute delay, Terashevich called the head conductor, who recommended waiting until the next stop at Bologoye for police to arrive.

Yet a few minutes before Bologoye, the train halted for about a minute. The two thieves leaped from the train, ran through the snow, and found their getaway car waiting by the roadside. By the time police had boarded at Bologoye few minutes later, the car was long gone, perhaps on its way back to Moscow to start the process over again.