Espreso. Global

Anti-semitic incidents at Makhachkala Airport: Dagestan leader blames Ukrainian influences for riots

30 October, 2023 Monday

Sergey Melikov, the leader of Dagestan, has accused a Telegram channel of encouraging anti-Semitic disturbances at Makhachkala Airport on the evening of October 29. He claims it involved individuals he referred to as "traitors and Banderites" from Ukraine

According to the Russian outlet Izvestia, there were protests at the airport in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, against an arriving plane carrying Israelis.

On the evening of October 29, several thousand people gathered to express support for Palestine and displayed anti-Israel signs.

The message stated, "Several thousand people from neighboring villages, towns, and districts have assembled at the international terminal of Makhachkala Airport, including men, women, and children."

Later, the protesters managed to gain access to the airport building by breaking the entrance door.

Additionally, they blocked roads and tried to overturn cars. Law enforcement officers fired warning shots into the air when the crowd approached a patrol car.

Subsequently, RusNews reported that the protesters attempted to approach a Red Wings aircraft, likely arriving from Israel, with some individuals even climbing onto the plane's wing to find passengers from Tel Aviv.

However, Russian RBC reported that Rosaviatsia, Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency, announced the temporary closure of the airport due to the presence of unidentified individuals on the airport grounds. This measure would be in place until the situation returned to normal. Law enforcement agencies were on-site to address the situation, the message said. 

Planes scheduled to land at Makhachkala were diverted to alternate airports. The Makhachkala airport was expected to resume operations on October 31.

The government of Dagestan announced a 24-hour work schedule in response to the situation.

The head of the Dagestan government said, "We declare a 24-hour work schedule for the Dagestan government. All departments are actively engaged. We sympathize with the people of Palestine and understand the emotions of our citizens. However, we must avoid spreading panic. Dagestan's people have a history of being composed and fair."

Furthermore, the head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Oleksandr Bastrykin, took charge of the investigation into the mass disturbances in Dagestan.

Later, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing the Ministry of Health of Dagestan, that there were casualties among both police officers and civilians as a result of the airport riots.

As of the morning of October 30, over 20 casualties have been reported, with two individuals in critical condition.

Local police have identified over 150 active participants in the riots, and 60 of them have been detained. A criminal case has been initiated under the charge of mass disturbances.

Dagestan authorities' response

The leader of Dagestan, Sergey Melikov, expressed his embarrassment over the recent turmoil at Makhachkala Airport.

"Today, I feel ashamed about what happened yesterday. Dagestan has always been known for its strong bonds of friendship within the Caucasus and throughout all of Russia, maybe even beyond," he said.

He pointed out that similar incidents didn't occur in other North Caucasus regions, where people also prayed for those affected in the Middle East.

"However, only in Dagestan, a small group of our fellow citizens acted in an inappropriate way, and today, they're reflecting poorly on Dagestan," Melikov added.

According to him, the events at Makhachkala airport were a clear violation of the law, and the authorities will address it appropriately.

"The actions of those who gathered at the airport were a serious breach of the law. It's not brave to confront unarmed individuals who haven't done anything illegal. It's not honorable to invade the airport's premises or to harass and check the documents of strangers," he posted on his Telegram channel.

Later, as reported by the Moscow Times, Melikov linked anti-Semitic actions in the region to the Utro Dagestana channel. Russian Telegram channels suggested that this platform was the first to spread rumors about Israeli refugees relocating to Russian Muslim republics.

"Today, we received confirmed information that the Utro Dagestana channel is managed from Ukraine by traitors and Banderites," Melikov stated.

Israel's response

The Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry are closely monitoring the situation in Dagestan. They expect Russian law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of all Israeli citizens and Jews, as reported by the Times of Israel.

The statement emphasized Israel's commitment to safeguarding its citizens and Jews worldwide.

Currently, a limited number of Israelis and Jews are in a secure location at the airport. Efforts are underway to facilitate their transfer to a connecting flight bound for Moscow as soon as the situation allows.

Ukraine's response

Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, expressed his concerns about the situation in Dagestan, emphasizing that it's not an isolated incident.

He stated, "This is not an isolated incident in Makhachkala, but rather part of Russia’s widespread culture of hatred toward other nations, which is propagated by state television, pundits, and authorities."

The President highlighted that several anti-Semitic statements were made by Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister and President over the past year.

  • On October 27, President Erdogan called on Turkish citizens to join a solidarity rally in support of Palestine. 
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