- The airport is now under full control, police said
- Anti-Israel protesters attacked it on Sunday
- Nine police officers injured – Ministry of Home Affairs
Oct 30 (Reuters) – Russian police have taken over an airport in the predominantly Muslim region of Dagestan and arrested 60 people, the interior ministry said on Monday, after hundreds of anti-Israel protesters besieged the facility on Sunday when a flight from Israel arrived.
Videos obtained by Reuters from the airport in the regional capital Makhachkala showed protesters, mostly young men, running through the airport waving Palestinian flags, breaking glass doors and shouting “Allahu Akbar” or “God is great” on Sunday evening.
Another group tried to overturn the patrol truck.
Local officials said 20 people were injured at the airport before security forces brought the unrest under control. Security forces told Reuters that the passengers on board were safe.
The unrest has followed several 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 earlier said it was beefing up security measures across the republic of about 3 million people.
The unrest in the region, where Russian security forces once battled an Islamist insurgency, is a headache for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is waging war in Ukraine and is keen to maintain domestic stability ahead of presidential elections expected next year.
The Russian Civil Aviation Authority has closed the airport until security checks are completed.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, in its report, identified 150 so-called more radical protesters. It said authorities are looking to track down all those involved.
“Currently, the airport is fully under the control of law enforcement agencies,” the ministry said.
Dagestan’s president, Sergey Melikov, said that “Dagestanis sympathize with the suffering of victims of the actions of unjust people and politicians, and pray for peace in Palestine”, saying the incident was a complete violation of the law.
“There is no courage in waiting as a mob for unarmed men who have not done anything forbidden,” Melikov said on the Telegram messaging app.
Regional leaders in two other parts of the North Caucasus called for peace. A similar appeal was made by the chief Muslim cleric or mufti of Dagestan.
Israel urged Russian authorities to protect Israelis and Jews in their jurisdiction.
A Jewish center under construction in Nalchik, capital of the neighboring Russian republic of Kabardino-Bulgaria, was set on fire just days ago, emergency officials said.
Small anti-Israeli rallies were reported on social media over the weekend across Dagestan and the North Caucasus in Russia’s south. Reuters could not independently verify those reports.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed the events on Russia’s “widespread culture of hatred of other countries propagated by state television, pundits and officials”. There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin.
Russia, which wants an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and supports a two-state solution, has tried to maintain contact with all sides in the Israel-Hamas conflict, but has angered Israeli officials by inviting Hamas representatives to Moscow. Israel’s foreign ministry summoned the Russian ambassador on Sunday.
Reported by Reuters. Andrew Osborne, Lydia Kelly, Don Williams, Ron Popsky Editing by Hugh Lawson and Lisa Schumacher and Mirel Fahmy
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