An angry mob stormed the airport in Makhachkala, Russia, following rumors of an influx of “Jewish refugees” from Israel. This incident is part of a series of anti-Jewish acts that have occurred in Muslim-majority areas in Russia during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Late on Sunday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Makhachkala airport, some carrying Palestinian flags and anti-Jewish signs. The unauthorized gathering was fueled by online rumors of a flight allegedly arriving from Tel Aviv and carrying Jewish refugees seeking to escape the conflict in the Middle East.
The mob clashed with airport police, breaking doors and entering the terminal. Rioters even reached the runway, blocking newly-landed flights while searching for Israeli passengers. The authorities responded with a large-scale deployment of riot police, resulting in the detention of several protesters.
The Russian Interior Ministry has launched a criminal investigation into the mass rioting, which carries severe penalties, including up to 15 years of imprisonment. Additionally, individuals who made racially or religiously motivated hateful remarks may also face criminal charges.
In a separate incident, a crowd in the city of Khasavyurt searched a hotel for the rumored “Jewish refugees.” However, their search proved fruitless, and the situation was resolved peacefully. Another incident took place in the city of Nalchik, where assailants targeted a Jewish cultural center under construction, setting it on fire and leaving anti-Semitic graffiti.
The unrest in Dagestan was allegedly fueled by online rumors originating from the Utro Dagestan (Dagestan Morning) Telegram channel. This channel, despite masquerading as a local outlet, has been exposed as a project of Ukrainian intelligence services aimed at inciting unrest in Russia. The channel received substantial funding and became a prominent online platform amid the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Former State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev, who currently resides in Ukraine, admitted that the Dagestan Morning was one of their resources. Ponomarev, who described himself as an “investor” for the channel, claimed that he had not been in contact with Dagestan Morning for over a year. However, his team made this statement amidst the airport unrest.
These anti-Jewish incidents highlight the concerning rise of hatred and bigotry during times of conflict. Russian authorities must take strong measures to address these acts and ensure the safety and well-being of all communities within their borders.