Police conducted home searches and confiscated phones to identify those who took part in the storming of an airport in the southern Russian region
Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has announced the arrest of 83 people in connection with Sunday’s anti-Semitic riots at Makhachkala Airport in the Republic of Dagestan. Police have warned that any attempts to provoke further unrest in the Muslim-majority region will be suppressed.
In a statement on Telegram on Monday, the ministry said officers had conducted over 50 searches and had seized mobile phones and other equipment to be used as evidence against those suspected of organizing and participating in the riot.
The investigation is being led by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Investigative Committee (SK). The MVD described the “operational situation” in Dagestan as being under control but warned against any attempts to destabilize the region.
The arrests came after a crowd of rioters forced their way into the terminal at Makhachkala Airport in the Dagestani capital on Sunday, then pouring onto the runway in an attempt to storm a plane arriving from Tel Aviv. The unrest was apparently triggered by rumors on social media that the aircraft was carrying a group of “Israeli refugees” supposedly fleeing from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The rioters blocked the runway for several hours as they tried to board the Tel Aviv flight. They were also filmed questioning random people at the airport terminal, trying to determine whether or not they were Jewish.
The authorities restored order following heavy clashes with the protesters, which left more than 20 people injured, including nine officers. Sixty rioters were arrested at the scene.
The head of the Republic of Dagestan, Sergey Melikov, stressed on Monday that the regional authorities would not allow the rioters to escape punishment, denouncing the unrest as a “betrayal” and vowing “no forgiveness for anyone.”
Ukraine was quick to claim that the incident was “proof” of Russian anti-Semitism. However, Russian Muslim leaders and senior officials have condemned the scenes as unacceptable, suggesting the unrest was incited from abroad.
According to Melikov, the riots were sparked by rumors initially spread through the Utro Dagestan (‘Dagestan Morning’) Telegram channel, which has been exposed as a Ukrainian intelligence service project designed to stir ethnic and religious unrest in Russia. The channel was founded by Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian MP who fled to Kiev in 2014 after being charged with embezzlement. The channel was blocked by Telegram on Monday for inciting violence.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that the anti-Semitic unrest was organized through social networks by Western intelligence services operating from Ukraine, and was part of a broader effort to destabilize the world.
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