Kindergartens, malls, and courts in some of Russia’s largest cities have been evacuated numerous times over the past few weeks as the country is being plagued by anonymous bomb threats.
The bomb threats, according to Gulf News, are associated with the alleged theft of 120 bitcoin from now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange WEX, a spin-off of BTC-e, as they accuse Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeyev of stealing the BTC, worth around $900,000.
According to the news outlet the heat of St. Petersburg’s courts’ press service, Darya Lebedeva, the bomb threats have even claimed hospitals and supermarkets were going to be targeted. Via emails, the anonymous threats have forced authorities to evacuate an estimated 770,000 people over the course of weeks.
In total, the news outlet claims 8,000 buildings have been targeted, and 15 courts in Moscow have been evacuated over the threats targeting Malofeyev. These demand the return of 120 BTC he allegedly stole from the WEX exchange.
BTC-e was taken down in 2017 at the time of the arrest of Alexander Vinnik, the exchange’s supposed operator. WEX surfaced soon after as a spin-off of the exchange, but late last year it lost its official domain names before it completely shut down.
A BBC report published earlier this year linked the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to the disappearance of $450 million worth of cryptocurrency from WEX. BBC’s report mentioned Malofeyev as a pro-Kremlin Russian billionaire under U.S. sanctions, as he was allegedly heard in a leaked audio recording discuss the importance of WEX being under FSB control.
Potential Ukrainian Involvement
Malofeyev is the founder of an investment fund and is on the U.S. and EU’s sanctions list for allegedly funding pro-Russian separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine. He denied any involvement in the now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange, or in any BTC theft.
At the time of the BBC’s investigation, however, he refused to answer detailed questions. The South China Morning Post reports that earlier this year Moscow was plagued by bomb threats that led to the evacuation of 50,000 people.
Back then, as with the current bomb threats hitting Russia, no actual explosives were found. Some Russian media have accused Ukraine of making the bomb threats over the tug of war both countries are locked in after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Featured image via Pexels.