Fear Strikes Moscow as Russia Readies More Bomb Shelters

That authorities are prepping bomb shelters much further afield than Belgorod is a startling admission of just how seriously Russians are taking the threat from Ukraine

AP/Emilio Morenatti
Women inside a bomb shelter Mykolaiv, Ukraine, October 24, 2022. AP/Emilio Morenatti

In a sign of the fearful  times that Vladimir Putin has bought to his own country — not to mention his unrelenting attacks on Ukraine — more Russians are now taking active measures to prepare bomb shelters in various cities. A Russian independent newspaper, Holod, reported on Sunday that signs indicating directions to the nearest bomb shelters have been appearing in growing numbers on the streets of Novokuznetsk, Belgorod, and Rostov-on-Don. 

The latter city is only 20 miles from the Sea of Azov and less than 100 miles east of Mariupol, the Ukrainian port city that was largely destroyed by Russian bombardment in the earlier months of the war.

Novokuznetsk, on the other hand, is in southwestern Siberia, far from the Ukrainian front. Yet an announcement on the city’s municipal website read that “in order to preserve life and health … in case of possible wartime threats or natural and man-made emergencies, protective structures of civil defense [shelters] are provided.” Authorities said that some 3,000 bomb shelter signs have gone up in the steel manufacturing city.

The newspaper reported that bomb shelter signs also recently started appearing on housefronts at Belogorod, a city in the eponymous Russian region that sits just opposite the border with Ukraine. Belgorod’s mayor, Valentin Demidov, said via Telegram that the city will install 700 more bomb shelter signs by December. 

Mr. Demidov also stated that the installation of signs indicating bomb shelters marked a “second stage” in civil defense preparations, the first stage being site inspections of the shelters.

Belgorod has been first in the line of fire from sporadic cross-border counterattacks emanating from Ukraine, which may have started as early as late March when an airstrike targeted a Russian fuel depot. 

That authorities are also prepping bomb shelters much further afield is a startling admission of just how seriously Russians are taking the threat from Ukraine nine months into the war that Moscow initiated. As the Sun has previously reported, the Russians have already started building a defensive line in the Belgorod region. According to the Moscow Times, authorities in Russia’s southern border regions including Belgorod have claimed drone, missile, and artillery attacks on their soil in the months since Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

The threat of Ukrainian reprisal attacks is apparently undiminished by a warning from President Zelensky of more Russian missile strikes. In his nightly televised address to Ukraine on Sunday, Mr. Zelensky said that “we understand that terrorists are preparing new strikes. We know that for sure. And as long as they have missiles, they won’t stop, unfortunately.”

Even as much of Ukraine reels from devastating Russian missile strikes on civilian electricity infrastructure, there is little worry about erosion of Ukrainian resolve to withstand the onslaught in the long term. For starters, more lethal weapons could soon be added to Kyiv’s already formidable arsenal. 

New, American-made precision bombs that can hit targets as far as 100 miles away could be coming by springtime. This will happen if, according to a report in the Telegraph, the Pentagon approves a proposal by Boeing to send Ukraine ground-launched small diameter bomb systems. 

According to the British newspaper these systems have twice the range of the widely-touted American-made Himars missiles, which Ukrainian forces wielded to much successful effect in their recent liberation of the city of Kherson. The GPS-guided bombs can in fact be fired from Himars launchers. 

Mr. Putin is doubtless aware of the growing risks to Russian civilians posed by Ukrainian counterattacks, in whatever shape or form they may take. That may be the reason why the strongman recently convened an in-person meeting of Russia’s security council for the first time since February; civil defense preparations were reportedly high on the agenda. As long as Russian forces remain in Ukraine, the risks to Mother Russia, vast though she may be, will only increase.


Mr. Grant, who has written for many major newspapers and worked in television at Paris and Tel Aviv, is now based in Athens as a staff reporter and editor of The New York Sun.

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