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.