One of realities of living in Kyiv is the daily risk of air raids. The country’s early warning air defence system is very good, although occasionally you get a pretty exciting show in the middle of the night. Last week however, I was awoken for a different reason.
In the wee hours of Monday morning, I was jolted awake by a knock on my hotel room door by a staff member announcing an anonymous bomb threat!
I got the full story as I made my way downstairs to a lobby full of sleepy guests. Someone who didn’t identify themselves called and claimed there was a bomb hidden somewhere on the property. So the hotel security guard inspected all the common areas while guests waited patiently in the lobby.
One of my newer friends at Hotel Bursa, Jeffery, a former UK Foreign Office diplomat who spent 14 years in Lebanon and is very familiar with bomb threats, provided some sober advice. “Perhaps the best place for all the guests while the hotel is being searched is not the lobby?”
Tick, tick, tick
This made a lot of sense to everyone, so we all moved to the open-air courtyard while security completed their search and pronounced the hotel safe. Jeffrey reacted to this revelation with typical British aplomb and whispered, “What does he mean he didn’t find anything? What’s he looking for – a shoebox with two red wires attached to an alarm clock?”
Jeffrey suggested the staff should report the threat to the police. “Good idea!” replied Katerina, working her very first 24-hour shift. One quick phone call and within fifteen minutes a Ukrainian National Guard team arrived with a trained bomb-sniffing dog. They inspected the entire hotel, including guest rooms, and thankfully pronounced it clear.
Do Not Disturb
In conversations with the national guard and police, we learned that Bursa was not the only hotel that experienced a bomb threat that night, apparently five others received the same. As Jeffrey and I walked back to our rooms we discussed how random bomb threats could be a very effective way for Russian agents to drive foreigners, aid workers, humanitarians and journalists out of Kyiv because they can’t get a decent night’s sleep.
It’s hard enough to sleep in a city with routine air raid sirens, active air defence fire, and civilian cellphone warnings going off almost every night. Nobody needs the additional stress of explosives to disturb their already disturbed sleep.
Go ahead, Russia, call in your fake bomb threats. But I can tell you, it didn’t really faze me or my fellow guests. We’re here for the long haul. We’re here to support freedom and the Ukrainian people. Cowardly bomb threats in a city under nearly constant aerial attack are the least of our worries.
Slava Ukraini! Heroaim Slava!