Kremlin arrests 60 and blames Ukraine for Dagestan airport riot as Russian Jews fear for their future

The Kremlin has launched a crackdown and blamed Ukraine following a riot targeting Jews at an airport in the eastern region of Dagestan, while Russian Jewish leaders warned that their communities could flee the country.

Police have made more than 60 arrests, Russian authorities said, after hundreds of rioters stormed Makhachkala airport on Sunday night attempting to attack a plane arriving from Tel Aviv.

Some rioters said they were looking for Jews, in videos circulating on social media. Telegram posts showed the attack was planned over several days. One group issued instructions to followers to make passengers on the plane “renounce their fellow child killers”.

Twenty people were injured in the attack, including nine police officers, local authorities said.

President Vladimir Putin met with intelligence chiefs on Monday with questions over why the riot was not prevented despite being advertised in advance.

Pro-Palestinian rallies have taken place in the predominantly Muslim region since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov attributed the attack to “outside interference”. Foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that Ukraine had played a “direct and key role” in what she called a “provocation”.

People in the crowd said they were looking for Jews (Photo: AFP via Getty)

Analysts questioned why the riot was not more forcefully controlled, in contrast to the zero-tolerance approach employed against other forms of dissent in Russia.

“Considering the violence they were facing compared with anti-mobilisation protests…police showed greater restraint,” wrote Harold Chambers in Russian political analysis journal Riddle.

Russian Jewish leaders called for strong action in response to the riot, which has drawn comparison with historic pogroms in Russia, when Jews were targeted by violent mobs.

Rabbi Alexander Boroda, president of the Russian Federation of Jewish Communities, said that “local authorities were not prepared for such incidents and allowed large-scale violations of law and order… with open threats to Jews and Israelis”.

“I call on the country’s leadership… to find and punish all the organisers and participants of these antisemitic actions in the strictest possible manner,” he said.

Rabbi Artur Isakov, based in Dagestan, said many Jewish families were considering fleeing the region in response to rising antisemitism. “The community are afraid, they call but I don’t know what to advise,” he told local media.

Several antisemitic incidents have been reported in Russia in recent weeks. A Jewish cultural centre was set on fire in the North Caucasus region last week. A rally calling for the eviction of Jews in neighbouring Cherkessk drew a crowd of hundreds, according to local media.

Israeli lawyer Alex Zernopolsky told Russian outlet Fontanka that his office was receiving dozens of enquiries a day from Russian Jews exploring the possibility of emigration, but said the process was being held up in many cases by lengthy security checks.

Traditionally warm relations between Russia and Israel have grown colder in recent weeks.

Israel issued a statement calling on Moscow to protect Russian Jews in the wake of the airport attack, and condemned the recent meeting between Russian officials and Hamas leaders in Moscow.

Russia has accused Israel of violating international law in its bombardment of Gaza.