Confronting imaginary refugees. The timeline of anti‑Semitic unrest in the Russian North Caucasus
Павел Васильев
Confronting imaginary refugees. The timeline of anti‑Semitic unrest in the Russian North Caucasus
30 October 2023, 22:47

Makhachkala International Airport. Photo: Ramazan Rashidov / TASS

Amid the ongoing military conflict between Israel and Hamas, Russia’s North Caucasus has been engulfed in chaos. Enraged men, having believed rumours about incoming “Jewish refugees,” pelted stones at a hotel in Khasavyurt, Dagestan republic, set ablaze an under-construction Jewish centre in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria republic, and stormed the airfield in Makhachkala, the capital and largest city of Dagestan. This is the timeline of events as they unfolded in the region over the past three days.

October 28

In Khasavyurt, a hotel is searched for Jewish people; in Cherkessk, demands are made for their eviction

On the evening of October 28, residents of Dagestan’s Khasavyurt, a city of 130,000 people, gathered at the local Flamingo hotel following anonymous reports of a person “externally resembling an Israeli citizen”—a man in a suit with a long beard. The crowd demanded that the hotel’s guests come to the windows and when they didn’t comply, stones were hurled at the windows. The police allowed some rioters to enter the hotel to check for Jews’ presence. From there, the crowd moved to inspect the Kiev hotel, where no Israelis were found as well.

Telegram channel ChP Kavkaz reported that a notice was hung on the Flamingo hotel’s doors afterwards: Jews do not live in the hotel, and their entry is prohibited.

An anti-Semitic rally also took place in Cherkessk, Karachay-Cherkessia republic, on October 28. A crowd gathered outside the government building, demanding support for Palestine, refusing entry to Israeli refugees in North Caucasus, and “evicting ethnic Jews.” According to the regional Ministry of Internal Affairs, 80 people participated, 34 were detained, and protocols on violation of public rallies rules were drawn up. Following this, the police warned locals about the responsibility for “disseminating destructive and knowingly false socially significant information.”

Despite the warning, on October 30, an anti-Semitic rally was held again in Cherkessk, where participants voiced that they “do not want to live next to Jews.”

October 29

In Nalchik, an under-construction Jewish centre torched; in Makhachkala, a mob storms the airport

Early in the morning in Nalchik, the under-construction Jewish Religious National-Cultural Community Centre caught fire. A message left on the wall of the building read: “Death to Yahuds.”

The regional Emergency Situations Department reported that the fire on Levich Street was completely extinguished by seven in the morning; according to rescuers, construction debris burned in the building, and nobody was hurt.

The most massive anti-Semitic demonstrations that day took place in Makhachkala, Dagestan. There, a crowd seeking Jews stormed the Uytash International Airport building and the runway.

Fueled by rumours on Telegram, men with Palestinian flags gathered near the airport, where the flight from Tel Aviv was supposed to land, in the evening. The messages on posters read: “Child killers have no place in Dagestan” and “We are against Jewish refugees.”

Searching for “refugees from Israel”, the crowd stopped cars exiting the airport, even police trucks—while the police remained inactive. Participants even attempted to overturn a patrol police car. At one point, the mob stormed the airport building, slamming the doors open, and took over the runway. Men tried to climb aboard one of the airplanes via the wing. Security forces fired into the air and beat people pulled from the mob.

Uytash airport temporarily ceased operations; it reopened the next day at 2PM Moscow time. Flights by Azimut and Red Wings from Tel Aviv to Mineralnye Vody, Stavropol Krai, and Makhachkala were temporarily rerouted to other cities.

Representative of the Chief Rabbinate of Russia in Dagestan, Ovadya Isakov, didn’t rule out that due to the anti-Semitic actions, it might be necessary to evacuate the Jewish population from the republic.

Outcomes and Consequences

In Makhachkala, security forces detained 83 riot participants; two dozen people are injured

Out of about 150 participants of the riots at the Makhachkala airport whose identities have been established, police have already detained 83 individuals, as reported by the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the North Caucasus Federal District.

According to the police, nine officers sustained bodily injuries, two of whom are hospitalised. Dagestan’s Health Ministry reported about 20 injured. A message about a supposedly deceased officer was quickly debunked.

The Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case on mass riots.

Authorities attributed the anti-Semitic demonstrations to “enemies” and “destructive forces”

The head of Dagestan, Sergey Melikov, former Commander-in-Chief of the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) troops stated that the gathering in Khasavyurt and the rally in Makhachkala occurred “due to fake information spread by enemies”, and called for “thorough actions to detect and neutralise the destructive forces that are pushing our youths towards violating public order.”

The Coordination Centre of Muslims of the North Caucasus echoed Melikov’s point about “destructive forces” standing behind the provocation and reported that they strongly condemn the violence. Today, according to local public posts, police dispersed another action in support of Palestine in Makhachkala.

Reactions to the events in the North Caucasus also came from the Kremlin. President’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov attributed the anti-Semitic riots in the North Caucasus to “external interference” while Vladimir Putin alleged that “the events in Makhachkala orchestrated through social media, including from Ukrainian territory, with the involvement of Western special services. But I must ask: can one truly help Palestine by attacking people?”

Editor: Dmitry Tkachev

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