The U.S has dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that an anti-Israel riot at the Makhachkala airport in Dagestan was organized by Ukraine and the West, describing the allegations as “absurd” and “classic Russian rhetoric.”
The incident occurred on Sunday when hundreds of people stormed the Makhachkala airport ahead of the arrival of a flight from Tel Aviv, Israel. Many among the mob waved Palestinian flags and chanted antisemitic slogans, creating a chaotic and concerning scene.
Dagestan, a constituent republic of Russia, has a majority Muslim population, and the incident appears to have been sparked by anger over the conflict in Gaza, which has strained relations in various parts of the world.
Security forces eventually brought the situation under control, and local authorities reported the arrests of more than 60 individuals in connection with the incident.
In a televised meeting on Monday, President Putin alleged that the events in Makhachkala were instigated through social networks, pointing particularly to Ukraine, and accused them of being orchestrated by Western special services. He stated, “Who is organizing the deadly chaos and who benefits from it today, in my opinion, has already become obvious. It is the current ruling elites of the U.S and their satellites who are the main beneficiaries of world instability.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also commented on the situation, highlighting the influence of the recent tragic events in the Gaza Strip. He noted that during such times, enemies may seize the opportunity to provoke disturbances.
Additionally, the governor of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov, asserted that the riots had been incited “from the territory of Ukraine by traitors” using a Telegram channel called Morning Dagestan. The Morning Dagestan channel is known for its Islamist stance against Russian control of the region and has been associated with Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian MP who defected to Ukraine in 2016 and was granted Ukrainian citizenship.
The channel published details of the Tel Aviv flight arriving in Makhachkala and urged its followers to “meet the unexpected visitors.” However, the channel later released a statement denying any connections to Ponomarev or Ukraine, even though questions remain about its true affiliations.
When confronted with Russia’s allegations at a White House briefing, John Kirby, spokesperson for the United States National Security Council, labeled them “classic Russian rhetoric” and suggested that blaming others when internal issues arise is a common practice. Kirby emphasized that the West had no involvement in the incident, categorizing it as an act driven by “hate, bigotry, and intimidation.”
Comparisons have been drawn between footage from the airport incident and historical pogroms, particularly those that occurred during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, emphasizing the seriousness of the mob’s actions.
Video clips widely circulated on social media showed a large crowd forcefully entering the airport, pushing open doors, and spilling out onto the runway. In addition, some individuals were seen stopping cars outside the airport and demanding to see passengers’ documents, suggesting an apparent search for Israeli passports.
Russia’s health ministry reported that 20 people, including police officers, had sustained injuries, with two individuals in critical condition.
In the aftermath of the incident, Governor Melikov expressed sympathy for the victims and condemned the airport events as “outrageous.” He acknowledged that the entire community of Dagestan felt empathy for the suffering caused by the actions of unjust individuals.
The Israeli government, through a statement from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, conveyed its grave concern about attempts to harm Israeli citizens and Jews and called upon Russian legal authorities to protect the well-being of Israeli citizens and Jews and take strong action against the rioters.
The incident at Makhachkala airport underscores the importance of addressing and preventing acts of violence and intolerance against any community, regardless of the region or the context in which they occur.