A large crowd of angry protesters gathered at the airport in Makhachkala, the capital city of Russia’s majority-Muslim Dagestan Republic, on Sunday searching for alleged “Jewish refugees”. The unrest prompted the deployment to the scene of law enforcement teams in riot gear.
The crowd breached the airport’s security zone and even made it on to the runway, disrupting the operations, footage from the scene circulating online shows.
The crowds were filmed ‘questioning’ random people at the airport’s terminal to determine whether or not they were Jewish, and also approached just-landed planes with the apparent intent of entering the aircraft.
The unrest at the airport was apparently prompted by rumors spread on local social media channels claiming that a flight from Tel Aviv inbound for Makhachkala was carrying a group of “Jewish refugees,” purportedly fleeing the conflict between the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel.
The rumors appeared to have originated on the Telegram channel Utro Dagestan (‘Dagestan Morning’), which had previously been exposed as having been set up by Ukrainian intelligence services specifically to stir unrest in Russia.
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The incident comes a day after a crowd raided a hotel in the Dagestani city of Khasavyurt in search of “Jewish refugees” rumored to be staying there. However, the group failed to find any and the situation was resolved peacefully.
Earlier in the day, the head of the Republic of Dagestan, Sergey Melikov, addressed the issue, urging the public not to fall for baseless rumors spread online. “Extremist resources administered by the enemies of Russia, far from Dagestan and even farther from Islam, spread militant calls, to which, unfortunately, certain hotheads respond,” Melikov stated.
The local branch of the Russian Interior Ministry has issued a warning to the participants of the unrest at the airport, urging them to abstain from unlawful actions. A criminal probe into the organization of mass rioting has already been launched, it said, warning that individuals making hateful racially and religiously charged public remarks risk criminal prosecution.
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