A mob of several thousand people stormed Makhachkala Airport in the Muslim-majority Dagestan region on October 29 after it was shared widely on social media that a flight from Tel Aviv was arriving in the city.
Videos shared online showed a large group of what appears to be mainly young men breaking into the airport building and subsequently onto the tarmac, looking to confront passengers who had arrived on a Red Wings flight from Israel. Passengers on that flight, and a number of other planes at the airport, were forced to sit and wait on the apron for a number of hours as the mob hunted for Jews.
The events at Makhachkala airport appear to have been whipped up by channels on the Russian-founded messaging app Telegram, which told Dagestanis that Jews from Israel would be arriving as refugees in Makhachkala. The largest channel involved in instigating the riot, Utro Dagestan, told its followers to take over the airport, interrogate people arriving in the city, and force any Israelis to denounce their country’s government. It also suggested that any Israelis be followed from the airport to their place of stay in the city.
In response, after hours of unrest at the airport, Russian police managed to take back control, ousting the mob. According to local authorities, twenty people were wounded at the airport. The police later revealed that more than 150 participants in the riot had been identified, with 60 “detained and taken to territorial police departments for further investigation”. The airport will now be shut for a few days.
Writing on Telegram, Sergei Melikov, the head of Dagestan, described the incident as “a gross violation of the law”, promising that the perpetrators would be dealt with by law enforcement.
“All Dagestanis empathise with the suffering of victims of the actions of unrighteous people and politicians and pray for peace in Palestine. But what happened at our airport is outrageous and should receive an appropriate assessment from law enforcement agencies! And this will definitely be done,” he wrote.
Dagestan itself is the home to a significant Jewish population, which has resided in the area for thousands of years. Local religious authorities in the region have estimated that there are currently 800 Jewish families still in Dagestan, mainly in the ancient city of Derbent, warning that they may have to evacuate for their own safety.
The events in Makhachkala are not the only anti-Semitic incidents to have been reported in the North Caucasus region in the last few days.
On October 28, residents of Khasavyurt, Dagestan, gathered outside a hotel following online rumors that Israeli refugees were being housed there. On the same day, protesters in Cherkessk, the capital of Karachay-Cherkessia, demanded the expulsion of ethnic Jews from the area. Furthermore, in Nalchik, the capital of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, a group intentionally set fire to a Jewish cultural center and left anti-Semitic graffiti on the wall of the building.