Hundreds of people broke into an airport in Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian republic of Dagestan, and stormed the tarmac in an apparent attempt on Sunday to locate Israeli passengers on a flight that had landed from Tel Aviv, according to Russian media reports and footage of the incident.
Video circulating on Russian social media showed the crowd surging through the terminal, some waving Palestinian flags. Other protesters shouted antisemitic chants, according to local media. Some carried signs reading “child killers have no place in Dagestan” and “we are against Jewish refugees,” the independent newspaper the Moscow Times reported.
There were reports of demonstrators stopping cars outside the airport to check occupants’ passports, while others on the tarmac allegedly swarmed onto the wing of an airliner. A security source told the Israeli news outlet N12 that a small number of Israelis and Jews in the area had been secured, and that they were expected to be evacuated to Moscow.
Insane footage on Russian social media from Makhachkala in the North Caucasus region, where there have been several anti-Semitic protests this weekend.
A crowd of people, some with Palestinian flags, broke into the airport in search of passengers on a flight from Tel Aviv. pic.twitter.com/MZxyvxi6T3
— max seddon (@maxseddon) October 29, 2023
The Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsia said that the airport had been closed and incoming flights diverted in the midst of the incident. It later announced that the facility would remain “provisionally closed” until Nov. 6.
Calls to assemble at the airport and protest the incoming flight had spread earlier in the day over the messaging app Telegram, reported Medizona, another independent Russian media outlet. Police “converged on the facility” in response to the unrest, the Associated Press reported. Unverified footage posted to Russian social media showed some rioters attempting to flip a police car.
The Ministry of Health in Dagestan, a heavily Muslim region, said that more than 20 people, including both police officers and civilians, were injured. Two were in critical condition late Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement on Sunday night that Israel “expects the Russian law enforcement authorities to protect the safety of all Israeli citizens and Jews wherever they may be and to act resolutely against the rioters and against the wild incitement directed against Jews and Israelis.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry called for Russia to take “robust action” against the demonstrators. The president’s office said that the Israeli ambassador to Russia was working with Russian authorities on safeguarding Jews and Israelis in the country, according to the AP.
The Supreme Mufti of Dagestan, Sheikh Akhmad Afandi, appealed to the rioters in a video statement posted to Telegram.
“You are mistaken. This issue cannot be resolved in this way,” he said, according to the AP. “We understand and perceive your indignation very painfully... We will solve this issue differently. Not with rallies, but appropriately. Maximum patience and calm for you.”
The Dagestan government voiced support for Gaza, but asked on Telegram that residents “treat the current situation in the world with understanding.” In his own statement, Gov. Sergei Melikov vowed that justice would be served, calling the gathering a “gross violation of the law!”
Russia’s Investigative Committee in Dagestan announced late Sunday that it had opened a criminal case on charges of “organizing mass disorder,” according to the Moscow Times. The Ministry of Internal Affairs for Russia’s North Caucasian Federal District said that surveillance footage would be examined to identify the rioters.
Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the incident in a post on X, calling the footage “appalling.” The Ukrainian president, an early and vocal proponent of Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks, went on to allege that the episode was a symptom of Russia’s “deeply rooted” culture of antisemitism and xenophobia.
“Russian antisemitism and hatred toward other nations are systemic and deeply rooted,” he added. “Hatred is what drives aggression and terror. We must all work together to oppose hatred.”