MOSCOW — Managers of the Zenit Arena, a giant half-built stadium in St. Petersburg, received an official letter from the Ministry of Emergency Situations last week demanding that they immediately create shelter facilities for wartime. The stadium, under construction for the upcoming World Cup 2018, is located outside the city boundaries, the letter said, but in case of nuclear attack it is in the potential “zone of war destruction and radiation fallout.”
The last time Russians heard authorities talk like this about a potential mobilization for a nuclear strike was 20 years ago, and it all seemed highly improbable. Now, it appears, the Kremlin is not joking. Up to 40 million people participated in recent civil-defense exercises all across the country, learning about how to hide and where exactly to run to in case of a nuclear war.
But whether the motive behind this is self-defense, an implied threat to the West, a means to mobilize and control public opinion, or all of the above, is not entirely clear.
“These are the most serious tensions between Moscow and Washington in decades, said Sergei Markov, a member of the Civic Chamber, a Moscow-based state institution. “The war might begin even before the November elections in the U.S.”
“I personally plan to stock 200 cans of pork to be ready for a potential war crisis,” Markov told The Daily Beast in an interview, “and I advise everybody to do the same.”
State Duma Deputy Vadim Dengin said he hoped that there would be no war with United States. “I cannot understand why the West cannot just leave us in peace, let us be,“ the official said. “Americans should realize that it will be their children looking for shelters, too, if they are serious about attacking Russia."
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