Companies across Europe are reporting a sharp rise in demand for bomb shelters and bunkers as citizens fear Russia may soon use nuclear weapons in the ongoing war with Ukraine.
Residents in Germany, Switzerland, France and the U.K. have increasingly been seeking information about building and buying protective shelters amid fears that the war could spread further into Europe, several companies recently told The Telegraph. Russia has repeatedly warned the West not to interfere in its invasion of Ukraine, and has alluded to the possibility of using nuclear weapons if tensions further escalate.
Following two months of bloody fighting in Ukraine, Europeans—and even some Americans—are fearful that Russian President Vladimir Putin could soon target other nations with deadly weapons.
“In the first few weeks of March people were really scared and wanted immediate help,” Claus Haglund from Bühler GmbH, a Swiss firm that installs and repairs bunkers, told The Telegraph. He added that requests for new bunkers or repairs have “exploded” since the invasion began on February 24.
A specialized basement construction firm in the U.K. similarly told the news outlet that inquiries for shelters had surged 100 percent compared to this time last year. In Germany, the only bunker manufacturer that builds shelters for private individuals also said they have seen record demand since the war began.
Mario Piejde, the CEO of the German company BSSD, told local media that they’ve received more than 1,000 calls per day, according to The Telegraph. “It’s been like this for six weeks,” he said earlier this month. “People are freaking out.”
Even the German government announced earlier this month that it would begin investing money into strengthening its basement shelters and building up crisis stocks in case of war.
“There are currently 599 public shelters in Germany. We will check whether we could upgrade more of such systems. In any case, the dismantling has stopped,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said this month, according to Reuters. The country is also working on new concepts for allowing underground parking lots, subway stations and basements to become possible shelters.
Meanwhile, some U.S.-based companies that specialize in underground shelters said they’ve seen a rise in requests since late February, Insider reported.
Russia placed its nation’s nuclear forces on “special combat readiness” at the start of the war. Last week, the nation test-fired its nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic Sarmat missile, also known as Satan II, which Putin said would make Moscow’s foreign adversaries “think twice.”
On Thursday, the Russian president appeared to imply that he would use such weapons if Western nations continue to interfere in Ukraine or make threats toward Moscow.
“If someone intends to intervene on what is happening from the outside and creates unacceptable strategic threats for us, then they should know that our response to oncoming strikes will be swift, lightning fast,” Putin said speaking in Saint Petersburg, according to CNN. “We have all the tools for this, ones that no one can brag about, and we won’t brag—we will use them if needed—and I want everyone to know this. All the decisions have been made in this regard.”
Meanwhile, a news program in Russia this week promoted the prospect of the war spreading across “Europe and the world.” One guest even suggested that nuclear weapons should target the U.K. due to its support for Ukraine.
Nonetheless, a senior U.S. defense official told Reuters Friday that despite Moscow’s rhetoric, it is not currently believed that there is a serious threat of Russia deploying nuclear weapons.
“We continue to monitor their nuclear capabilities every day the best we can and we do not assess that there is a threat of the use of nuclear weapons and no threat to NATO territory,” the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters.
Newsweek contacted Russia’s foreign ministry for additional comment.