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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bomb Hoax Shuts Down Vnukovo

VNUKOVO, Moscow Region -- In the most disruptive incident to date in an epidemic of threatened terrorist acts, police evacuated Vnukovo International Airport after a caller claimed a bomb was about to explode at the crowded transport hub.

The hoax that disrupted more than 30 flights and delayed thousands of passengers Monday was the latest in a rash of false alarms and genuine bombings that have undermined already flimsy security and frayed the nerves of Moscow's 10 million residents.

"We fear the perpetrators are testing us and waiting for the time we don't react, and then they'll really blow something up," said Lieutenant Alexei Krivorotov, the frustrated duty officer at the police unit at Vnukovo.

Monday's 90-minute shutdown and search was the fourth to afflict Vnukovo in the past month, said Alexander Kolesnikov, a senior airport administrator.

"It just makes you mad as hell to realize that some insane or evil-minded individual can disrupt the work and lives of so many people so easily," Kolesnikov fumed. "I hate to think we are so helpless and vulnerable."

But Russian police and security officials are easy prey for pranksters and terrorists.

Incoming calls on the outmoded telecommunications system cannot be immediately or accurately traced, forcing police to order precautionary evacuations after virtually every threat.

"Look for yourself. We don't have the equipment. We don't have anything!" complained Krivorotov, gesturing toward the 1950s-vintage telephone system in use at Vnukovo police station.

And even if hoaxers are caught red-handed, they can only be charged with the misdemeanor of "hooliganism."