- Police say the airport is now under their full control
- It was stormed by anti-Israel demonstrators on Sunday
- Nine policemen were injured – Ministry of Interior
Russian police took control of an airport in the Muslim-majority Dagestan region and arrested 60 people after hundreds of anti-Israel protesters stormed the airport on Sunday upon the arrival of a plane from Israel, the Russian Interior Ministry said on Monday.
Video clips obtained by Reuters from Makhachkala Airport, the region’s capital, showed demonstrators, most of whom were young, waving Palestinian flags, breaking glass doors, and running through the airport on Sunday evening, chanting “God is great.”
Another group was seen trying to shoot down a patrol truck.
Local authorities said that 20 people were injured at the airport before security forces were able to contain the disturbances. Security forces told Reuters that the plane’s passengers were fine.
The unrest followed several other anti-Israel incidents in recent days in Russia’s North Caucasus region in response to Israel’s war against Hamas militants in Gaza.
The local Dagestan government said earlier that it was strengthening security measures throughout the republic, which is inhabited by about three million people.
The unrest in the region, where Russian security forces once fought an Islamist insurgency, is a headache for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is waging war in Ukraine and is keen to maintain stability at home ahead of presidential elections expected next year.
The Russian Aviation Authority closed the airport to flights until security checks were completed.
The Ministry of Interior said in its statement that 150 of those it described as the most active demonstrators had been identified. She added that the authorities are looking forward to tracking down all those involved.
“Currently, the airport is completely under the control of law enforcement agencies,” the ministry said.
Sergei Melikov, President of Dagestan, said the incident was a blatant violation of the law, even as Dagestanis sympathize with the suffering of victims of the actions of unjust people and politicians, and pray for peace in Palestine.
“There is no courage in the mob waiting for defenseless people who have not done anything prohibited,” Melikov said on the messaging app Telegram.
Regional leaders in two other regions of the North Caucasus called for calm. A similar appeal was issued by Dagestan’s chief Muslim cleric, or mufti.
Israel urged the Russian authorities to protect Israelis and Jews under its jurisdiction.
In the past few days, a Jewish center under construction in Nalchik, the capital of the nearby Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, was set on fire, emergency officials said.
There were also reports on social media of small anti-Israel rallies over the weekend in Dagestan and across the North Caucasus in southern Russia. Reuters was unable to independently verify these reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed the events on Russia’s “widespread culture of hatred towards other countries, spread by state television, pundits and authorities.” There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin.
Russia, which wants an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and supports the two-state solution, tried to maintain contacts with all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, but it angered the Israeli authorities by inviting a Hamas delegation to visit Moscow. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Russian ambassador on Sunday.
Report from Reuters. Writing by Andrew Osborne, Lydia Kelly, Dan Williams, Ron Popeski, Editing by Hugh Lawson, Lisa Shoemaker, and Miral Fahmy.
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