A mob overran the airport in Makhachkala, the capital of the Muslim-majority republic of Dagestan in southern Russia, looking for “refugees from Israel” on Sunday evening.
Having gained control of the terminal, the mob proceeded to check people’s IDs and ransacked the airport before making it onto the runway, where they attempted to board a flight that had just arrived from Tel Aviv.
By the time a Red Wings flight from Tel Aviv landed at the Makhachkala Uytash Airport at 7:22 PM on Sunday, some 1,500 people shouting anti-Semitic slogans were already inside the airport building, according to police reports. The crew locked themselves inside the plane along with 50 passengers, which reportedly included four Israeli citizens.
Rioters reportedly checked cars as they left the airport car park, apparently in an attempt to identify ethnic Jews. Having arrived on site, law enforcement officers were reportedly inactive for several hours before finally attempting to take back control of the airport at around 10 PM. Footage of the clashes included audible gunfire, shouts of “Allahu Akbar”, and rioters throwing stones at the police.
Passengers on another flight from Dubai were also forced to remain inside their aircraft for five hours until law enforcement regained control of the airport late on Sunday night. The airport had its warehouses ransacked and its shops looted, the Mash Telegram channel reported on Monday.
The police detained 60 rioters, and 20 people were injured in the clashes, two of whom are in a critical condition. Nine police officers were injured; two of them were hospitalised, the local police said on Monday.
The Russian aviation agency announced that the airport would resume operations at 3 AM on Tuesday after a “thorough safety inspection”. The Russian Investigative Committee started a criminal investigation into “civil unrest”.
The Makhachkala Uytash Airport during the riot. Photo: social media
Dagestan governor blames the riot on Ukrainians
The Dagestan Governor Sergey Melikov blamed the riot on “Ukrainian traitors and Banderites”.
“It is no secret that attempts to destabilise the situation in Dagestan by stirring up interethnic and interreligious hatred come from our enemy, the foes of our country,” he said.
Melikov said that Utro Dagestana, a Telegram channel he said was run by “traitors”, was to blame for posting anti-Semitic statements on Saturday in an attempt to inflame public opinion.
The channel, which was created by Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of Russia’s State Duma who later sided with Ukraine, claimed that “refugees from Israel” would be arriving in Dagestan and called on locals to storm the airport.
Ponomarev has since said that he cut all ties with the channel over a year ago.