HATFIELD, United Kingdom (VOICE OF NAIJA)- No fewer than 60 people stormed an airport in the Muslim-majority Caucasus republic of Dagestan, seeking to attack Jewish passengers coming from Israel were arrested by Russian police, according to reports.
Dagestan is Russia’s southernmost territory and one of its poorest regions.
It has taken an active part in the Ukraine offensive — with independent reports showing it has sent proportionally more men to Ukraine than many more ethnically Russian regions.
Dozens of protesters, many of them chanting “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest), broke through doors and barriers at Makhachkala airport on Sunday, with some charging onto the runway.
Nine police officers were injured while trying to restore order and two of them were admitted to hospital, the interior ministry said.
The violence prompted Israel to call on Russia to protect its citizens, while the United States condemned the “anti-Semitic protests”.
Flight tracking website Flightradar24 indicated that a Red Wings flight out of Tel Aviv had landed at Makhachkala at 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) on Sunday.
The independent Russian media outlet Sota said it was a transiting flight that had been due to take off again for Moscow two hours later.
The governor of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov, promised that those responsible would be punished, and the republic’s interior ministry said later that 60 people had been arrested.
“More than 150 active participants in the unrest have been identified, 60 of them have been arrested,” the ministry said in a statement early Monday.
‘Child killers’ not welcome
“The airport is now totally under the control of security forces,” it added.
Russia’s aviation agency initially said the airport would remain closed until November 6 but then announced it would reopen on Tuesday.
Several local Telegram channels showed photos and videos of dozens of men waiting outside the airport to stop cars.
One protester appeared in the videos holding a sign that read “Child killers have no place in Dagestan”.
Other videos showed a crowd inside an airport terminal trying to break down doors as staff members tried to deter them.
Prominent figures in Dagestan have spoken in support of Palestine and against Israel since October 7, when Hamas militants stormed across the Gaza border, indiscriminately killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians and kidnapping 239 others, according to the latest Israeli tallies.
Israel retaliated by relentlessly bombing Gaza, killing more than 8,000 people, half of them children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Sunday evening said: “Israel expects the Russian authorities to protect all Israeli citizens and all Jews, and to act decisively against the rioters and against incitement to violence against Jews and Israelis.”
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said: “The United States vigorously condemns the antisemitic protests in Dagestan, Russia.
“The US unequivocally stands with the entire Jewish community as we witness a worldwide surge in antisemitism,” Watson said on X, formerly Twitter.
Dagestan governor Melikov on Sunday posted a message, saying: “All Dagestanis empathise with the suffering of victims by the actions of unrighteous people and politicians and pray for peace in Palestine.
“But what happened at our airport is outrageous and should receive the appropriate assessment from law enforcement. This will be done.”
He also claimed on Monday morning that the “initiators of this action are our enemies who organised it from Ukrainian territory,” according to Russia’s Ria-Novosti news agency.
Melikov said the riots were instigated by posts on the social media platform Telegram from Utro Dagestan, run by “traitors” working from Ukraine.
Utro Dagestan, a Telegram channel with some 60,000 followers, had shared a post urging a mass gathering at the airport to prevent the arrival of “undesirable” passengers on the Red Wings flight.
Dagestan and Chechnya are mainly Muslim areas in a region that has witnessed years of violent tension with the central Russian authorities.
The RIA Novosti news agency reported on Sunday that a Jewish centre in another North Caucasus republic — Kabardino-Balkaria — had been set on fire in the city of Nalchik.