MOSCOW, Russia (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to shift blame away from the Kremlin Monday for a riot that took place in Dagestan’s southern region and targeted a flight coming from Israel. He claimed without any evidence that Ukrainian agents from Western spy agencies had been behind the rampage.
The clashes that took place on Sunday night, which Putin attributed to U.S. efforts at weakening Russia, injured more than 20 people — none of them Israelis.
The airport at Makhachkala in the capital of this predominantly Muslim area was flooded with angry men. Some were carrying antisemitic banners. They were looking for Israelis on the flight to Tel Aviv.
Regional health authorities reported that two people were critically injured, including police officers and civilians. According to the police, more than 80 people have been detained during this unrest. The Investigative Committee of Russia has launched a criminal investigation on charges that mass unrest was organized.
John Kirby, a spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, called Putin’s claim that Western entities are behind violence “classic Russian language.”
He added that “the West had nothing to with this” and criticized Putin for not doing enough to condemn the violence which he called “a chilling display of hatred”.
Russia has carefully calibrated its criticism of both sides of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. This conflict is giving Moscow a new opportunity to enhance its role as an international power broker, and to challenge Western attempts to isolate over Ukraine.
In a televised address to government officials, Putin stated that the Israel-Hamas conflict was sparked by the “terrorist attack against peaceful citizens in Israel and other nations.” He also said that Israel’s response targeted civilians who “had nowhere to run or hide.”
Social media videos and photos showed that some of the crowd were waving Palestinian flags, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great), and breaking into the airport terminal. Others held banners that read “Child murderers are not welcome in Dagestan,” and “We are against Jewish refugees.”
Some people rushed to the tarmac on Sunday night to surround the jet of the Russian airline Red Wings only to discover that it was empty. Other passengers stopped the bus, which was carrying passengers who had flown from Israel. This included some children that were undergoing medical treatment, as well as their parents. They began to examine their passports. According to Russian media, they let them go when some passengers who were dual citizens of Israel and Russia showed their Russian passports.
The authorities took several hours to disperse a mob that hurled rocks at the police.
Putin did not comment on the response of the authorities to the seizure at the airport, but launched an attack against the U.S. Monday. He accused it of sowing chaos in Middle East and fueling fighting in Ukraine.
Putin stated that “the ruling elites in the U.S., and its satellites, are the main beneficiaries of global instability.” They are making their bloody rents from it.
He also accused, without providing any evidence, “agents from Western Special Services” in Ukraine to use social networks to cause the rampages in Dagestan in order to weaken Russia.
“I don’t know if all the U.S. leaders are aware of this,” he said. It wouldn’t harm if the U.S. conducted an investigation into their special services in Ukraine and how they were trying to incite pogroms against Russia. It’s impossible to describe them as anything other than scum.
Dagestan Governor was cited by the Russian state news agency RIA. Sergei Melikov said that the unrest had been coordinated through a Telegram channel operated by “traitors,” based in Ukraine. The goal was to destabilize Dagestan and cause unrest.
Before the unrest, some local Telegram channels said that “refugees” from Israel were coming to Dagestan. After some of these posts, a group gathered on Saturday outside a Khasavyurt hotel in Dagestan, looking for Israelis who were staying there. However, they left when they did not find any.
After the unrest in Dagestan, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli office stated that Israel “expects Russian law enforcement to protect the safety and security of all Israeli citizens wherever they are and to act resolutely to the rioters as well as against the wild and violent incitement against Jews and Israelis.”
Alexander Ben Zvi told RTVI that none of the passengers, including Israelis, Russians, and dual citizens, on the flight were injured.
Makhachkala Airport resumed its operations Monday at 2 pm. Some Russian airlines provide flights from Israel via Makhachkala to Moscow with a connection in between, which is a cheaper alternative to direct flights.
Israel’s National Security Council (NSC) and Foreign Ministry have upgraded the travel warning for Dagestan, and other southern Russian regions, to Level 4. They advise Israelis to stay away from these areas and urge those who are already there to leave.