Correspondent in Moscow
The blast effect of Israel's bombing of Gaza in retaliation for the Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7 has reached Russia. But Moscow on Monday accused Ukraine of this backlash, which occurred the evening before, during a pro-Palestinian demonstration resembling a pogrom which took place at the airport of Makhachkala, the capital of the majority Russian republic. Muslim from Dagestan.
A thousand men actually stormed the airport to hunt down Jewish passengers disembarking from a plane from Israel. According to the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, these clashes were the result of a “planned and externally driven provocation” in which kyiv played a “key and direct” role. A sign of the importance of these events, Vladimir Putin called a meeting on Monday to “discuss Western attempts to use events in the Middle East to divide Russian society”, in the words of the Kremlin spokesperson, Dimitri Peskov. In kyiv, the spokesperson for Ukrainian diplomacy, Oleg Nikolenko, denounced an “attempt to shift responsibility” to his country.
Sixty people were arrested and 150 “active participants” identified on Monday, according to Russian authorities. From the same source, a police officer died in hospital on Monday and eight others were injured during clashes with rioters.
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It all started outside the airport, when men gathered to check the passports of people leaving the airport and check cars for Israeli citizens. Then, pushing through the security barriers in the airport, this troop rushed onto the tarmac to surround a plane from the Russian company Red Wings, which had just landed from Tel Aviv. An aggressive crowd, waving Palestinian flags and shouting “Allah Akbar”, with the intention of attacking passengers of Jewish origin.
While, on Sunday evening, federal television channels skipped the event, a multitude of videos poured into Telegram channels. In one of them, we see the passengers descending the accommodation ladder, then rushing back into the plane as they see the crowd of demonstrators approaching. In one of these videos, an attacker holds a sign: “Child killers have no place in Dagestan.” "Where are they? Where are they?”, belches another. Down on the tarmac, a passenger is surrounded and attacked by demonstrators who ask him for his passport and his phone to verify his origin. Jostled, the terrified man has all the difficulty in the world to explain that he is Uzbek and that he is going to Smolensk… We also see the crowd trying to storm a transfer bus towards the terminal: at the Inside, passengers display their passports against the windows to show that they are Russian citizens. Other images finally show the intervention of Russian special forces, pinning attackers to the ground.
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As of Sunday evening, Israel called on Russia to “protect all Israeli citizens and all Jews.” The tracking of Israeli citizens, and more broadly Jews, has been noted in several places in the Caucasus since October 7, in a context of rumors, dubious information, and conspiracy. On Saturday, another demonstration took place in front of the headquarters of the governor of the Karachay-Cherkessia republic. The crowd demanded the expulsion of the Jews and that the construction of a “shelter for refugees from Israel” be abandoned. Over the weekend, a Jewish cultural center was set on fire in Nalchik, capital of the autonomous republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.
In Khasavyurt, also in Dagestan, social networks reported last Saturday, with supporting photo, that a sign had been posted at the entrance to a hotel in the city, the Flamingo: “Foreign citizens are strictly prohibited from 'Israel (Jews). They don’t live here.” The warning was apparently placed after a Telegram channel known as pro-Ukrainian, Outro Dagestan (Dagestan Morning), allegedly spread the rumor that refugees from Israel had settled in the neighborhood. This channel “provoked the riots in Makhachkala (…) and prepared the public for mass actions since the beginning of October,” asserts Russia Today.
This pro-Kremlin media implicates the founder of Outro Dagestan, the activist Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of the Duma, joined Ukraine and now political leader of an armed movement bringing together Russian opponents fighting Vladimir Putin , the Freedom Legion of Russia. The person reacted on Monday by claiming to no longer have any links with Outro Dagestan.