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MOSCOW, June 27 (Itar-Tass) —— Such a weird way of making fun as attacking city busses with pneumatic weapons seems to becoming a very crazy national sport in Russia. Police have been unable to detain any suspects so far. And psychologists are curious about the causes of these manifestations of savageness.
In Moscow, mostly in its northwestern areas, passenger vehicles repeatedly came under pneumatic weapons fire lately. The list of such incidents and the areas where they occur keeps getting longer. The mass media for the first time rang the alarm bell on June 14, when route 817 busses came under fire at the 74th kilometer of the MKAD belt highway surrounding Moscow. On June a route 96 bus was attacked in Vilis Latsis street.
Three more such crimes were registered on June 16. A day later a street car and four busses were attacked. The hooligans have changed tactics. Public transport vehicles are now attacked from cars going past. Early this week unidentified attackers armed with stones smashed the windows of four city busses near the Shchyolkovo bus station.
Foreign tourists were at risk, too. Pneumatic weapons were used against a bus a group of Italians was about to board to go on an excursion. The bus was attacked on the way to Metropol hotel, where it was to pick up the waiting tourists.
Many tend to blame the epidemic of pneumatic weapon attacks against busses on youth hooliganism, an idiotic, cruel teen-age way of making fun, on a tide of untapped, vicious energy and primitive mentality. It is reminiscent of the previous craze of blinding air pilots with laser pointers. Whatever the case, the situation keeps getting worse. On June 24, an ambulance van was fired at with a pneumatic gun at the crossroads of the MKAD beltway and Svobody Street. The ambulance was carrying a patient. The windshield was damaged, but fortunately nobody was hurt.
On June 25, in the area of the Shchyolkovo highway somebody attacked a bus carrying the youth team of Moscow’s Lokomotiv soccer club. The 17-year-old players were on the way to the airport. The bullet went through a window. The player sitting next to it had reclined the back of the seat, and that saved him.
Passenger transport vehicles come under fire attacks in other cities, too. In Severodvinsk, the Arkhangelsk Region, an unidentified attacker fired a shot in the back window of a passenger bus. The bullet was fired not with a pneumatic weapon, but with a firearm, most probably a hunter’s shotgun.
In Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, a route 54 bus packed with passengers was attacked with a pneumatic weapon. The rear door glass fell to pieces.
Scared drivers are reluctant to take to the road, for they are unable to guarantee the safety of their passengers. “Since January this year our bus depot alone has had 35 such cases,” the chief of Moscow’ 15th bus depot, Sergei Popikov, is quoted by the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets as saying. “It all began several years ago, but when it may end is anyone’s guess. We cannot say that pneumatic weapons were used in all cases. Slingshots, stones hurled by hooligans, as well as pneumatic guns are not ruled out.”
Buses have begun to be equipped with tempered glass windows. In case of mechanical impact they fall to tiny pieces, which minimizes potential harm to passengers. And it takes several days to restore busses to their original condition.
A special team of detectives is investigating the enigmatic attacks. It incorporates local police in whose territory the incidents occurred, and the Moscow criminal police force.
The suspicion of a war between conflicting firms was brushed off before long. Firstly, the attacks were mounted against bus services run by different operators. Secondly, all types of public transport in different districts of the city were affected. Detectives say the bus hunters are sheer hooligans.
Experts say that in all cases the damage is the same – a tiny bullet hole. An ordinary bullet would also pierce the other wall of the bus. In all the registered cases only the outer glass sheet of a double-glass window is smashed. Hence the conclusion the shots were fired with less powerful, pneumatic weapons.
However, pneumatic weapons are not easily available to teenagers. Firstly, to buy a pneumatic gun the customer is to present the passport. As for gas cylinder pneumatic rifles, which are certified as toys, they have parameters identical to small-bore weapons, experts say, and they cost 30,000 to 50,000 rubles (an equivalent of one thousand to two thousand dollars). Far from all teenagers have a chance to pay this amount of cash.
Psychologists say such action is always a manifestation of internal aggression. Or some sort of social action. Some actor wishes to send a certain message. The question remains who the actor is and whom the message is addressed to. In the meantime, the law enforcers remain curious.