President Vladimir Putin has accused the West and Ukraine of fomenting unrest inside Russia after rioters in the predominantly Muslim region of Dagestan stormed an airport to “grab” Jewish passengers on a flight from Tel Aviv.
The United States condemned the events, which a State Department spokesman said “looked like a pogrom.”
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters that Kyiv had “nothing to do” with the violence, while a senior Russian rabbi said those who took part must be dealt with harshly.
Videos obtained by Reuters from the airport in Makhachkala, the regional capital of Dagestan, showed rioters, mostly young men, waving Palestinian flags, smashing glass doors, and running through the airport on Sunday evening shouting “Allahu Akbar” or “God is greatest”.
One group attempted to overturn a police patrol car, while another video showed rioters on the tarmac around a Red Wings plane that had flown in from Tel Aviv.
One banner brandished by rioters in an unverified social media post said: “There is no place for child killers in Dagestan.”
Another said: “We are against Jewish refugees.”
The unrest in Dagestan, where Russian security forces once fought an Islamist insurgency, is a headache for Putin, who is waging a war in Ukraine and seeking to maintain stability at home ahead of an expected presidential election next year.
Putin has accused the West and Ukraine of helping to foment unrest through social media, which he says is part of Washington’s agenda to create global chaos to ensure continued dominance and prevent rivals such as Russia from taking their place in the new multipolar world.
Putin told a meeting of security chiefs that US-backed shadow forces are trying to destabilize and divide Russia’s multi-ethnic and multi-confessional society.
“For this purpose, they use various means, as we see – lies, provocations, and sophisticated technologies of psychological and informational aggression.
“Yesterday’s events in Makhachkala were also inspired through social networks, not least from the territory of Ukraine, by the hands of agents of Western special services.”
Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, has previously accused Ukraine of playing a “direct and key role” in preparing the “provocation”.
Zakharova referred to online sources linked to former Russian lawmaker Ilya Ponomaryov, who is based in Ukraine, as a self-proclaimed anti-Kremlin partisan. Ponomaryev said he used to be an investor in a Telegram channel that encouraged people to go to the airport, but he no longer had any connection to it.
A crowd gathered at the airport after a report on the “Utro Dagestan” channel urged Dagestanis to meet the “uninvited guests” in an “adult manner” and make the plane and its passengers turn around and fly somewhere else.
The channel, which was later banned by telegram, did not use the word “Jew” but referred to the plane’s passengers as “unclean”.
“We have to wait for them on the street outside the airport and catch them before they go on their way,” said a message on the channel.
Image Source: The Business Standard