The rebuilding of bomb shelters around Russia after more than three decades of neglect following the end of the Cold War is the latest sign of the Kremlin’s increasing war effort.
According to those acquainted with the effort, state workers covertly inspect basements and other secure locations and fix problems that haven’t been used since the Soviet era.
The actions are a part of a more significant effort by the government to ensure that civil defense infrastructure is ready in case of a more substantial conflict, according to persons with knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity, to discuss matters, not in the public domain.
Push seen as part of efforts to boost military preparedness
According to the sources, the effort has yet to be formally declared and isn’t being pushed by any specific threats or intentions to utilize the civil-defense infrastructure. However, the authorities are taking no chances with other war-related preparations after the Kremlin’s abrupt call-up of 300,000 reservists beginning in September was beset by bureaucratic blunders and failures.
Another example of how the invasion, which is already in its ninth month, is causing a greater militarization of Russian society is the bomb-shelter effort. Washington disputes the Kremlin’s portrayal of the conflict as existential between Russia and the US. Russian education officials announced this week that beginning in the following school year; they will bring back basic military training from the Soviet era.
Mikhail Vinogradov, an expert at the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation, says, “This appears to be a federal command.” But it’s also possible that all these civil defense organizations are trying to prove their effectiveness by doing something.
Beyond border areas, it doesn’t appear like Ukraine has attacked any Russian objectives, and according to Kyiv officials, their primary goal is to remove Russian forces from their land. To prevent an escalation and criticize Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons, the US and its allies have limited deliveries of some offensive and long-range weaponry to Ukraine.
Efforts come amid growing militarization of Russian life
Officials have openly acknowledged the bomb-shelter effort in the few Russian regions close to the conflict where attacks have crossed the border. In April, Nikolai Patrushev, a top security official in the Kremlin, ordered a complete inventory of bomb shelters throughout southern Russia and demanded that those taken from state ownership be returned.
However, according to those familiar with the situation, inspections and cleanups of civil-defense facilities, which were frequently constructed in the basements of apartment buildings, schools, and government buildings during the Soviet era, are currently taking place in cities all across the nation.
Local authorities have occasionally denied any specific campaign after social media leaks of some of them. Last month, Moscow education officials denied that schools were being checked, while the health ministry published a statement denying that operating rooms were being installed in shelters.
But the initiatives are already known to the general public. One Moscow real estate agent reported that some of her clients have started to ask if the flats she is advertising have bomb shelters because they now view them as a significant amenity. She spoke under the name of anonymity out of concern for her safety.