Anti-Semitic riots in Makhachkala increase tensions in Russia: ISW talks about the challenges faced by the Kremlin
Anti-Semitic protests in Dagestan and other regions of the North Caucasus highlight the growing interethnic and interreligious tensions in Russia. The Kremlin has not yet responded and will likely have difficulty convincing Russians that the situation is under control and Jewish audiences that Jewish minorities in Russia are safe, despite efforts to portray Russia as a religiously tolerant country.
This is stated in a report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on October 29. It was recalled that the night before, hundreds of demonstrators broke into the Makhachkala airport, blocked the runway and tried to board a plane that had arrived from Israel.
This happened because of rumors that the Russian authorities were allegedly planning to resettle "Israeli refugees" in Dagestan and other regions of the North Caucasus. Before that, on the evening of October 28, hundreds of demonstrators gathered near a hotel in the city of Khasavyurt (also in Dagestan) in search of "Israeli refugees."
In addition, unknown persons set fire to a Jewish cultural center under construction in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkar Republic, on the night of October 29.
According to ISW, the rumors were apparently spread by a Dagestani Telegram channel, which claimed that "Israeli refugees" stayed at a hotel in Khasavyurt on October 28 and then announced plans for demonstrations that took place a few hours later in the center of Makhachkala.
He called on residents of Makhachkala to demonstrate at the airport on the night of October 28-29 and posted tracking data for a flight from Israel ahead of its arrival on the night of October 29.
At the time of publication of this report, demonstrations were ongoing at the Makhachkala airport, where demonstrators temporarily blocked the departure of all those at the airport. They were checking documents in search of Israeli citizens, although no Israelis were reported to have been detained.
Demonstrators chanted "Death to the Jews" and clashed with security personnel at the airport. Rosgvardia units removed the demonstrators from the airport, but the crowd remained outside.
The Telegram channel that spread the rumors is now inaccessible, which may be the first sign that the Russian authorities are actively trying to suppress anti-Semitic demonstrations.
At the same time, the Kremlin has not yet reacted and seems to have given regional authorities the opportunity to give an official response, the report says.
For example, the heads of Dagestan, the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, and the Kabardino-Balkar Republic called for refraining from aggressive actions and stopping attempts to incite ethnic hatred, and the North Caucasus Muslim Coordination Center especially condemned anti-Semitic actions after the first demonstrations. Dagestan's ministers of national policy and youth had traveled to the airport the day before, but appeared unable to dissuade protesters from breaking into the building.
The Main Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the North Caucasus Federal District warned that the demonstration was illegal without prior government permission.
"The Kremlin is likely to have a hard time convincing voters that the situation is under control and Jewish audiences that Jewish minorities in Russia are safe, despite its efforts to portray Russia as a religiously tolerant country," ISW said.
Ovadia Isakov, a spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate of Russia in Dagestan, said on October 29 that hundreds of Jewish families should leave Dagestan and the Russian Federation altogether because "Russia is not a salvation" as "there were pogroms in Russia too."
At a meeting with leaders of several Russian religious organizations, including Jewish and Islamic leaders, on October 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Russia as a beacon of religious harmony.
"The Kremlin is likely seeking to portray Russia as protecting its religious minorities in order to win favor with Muslim and Jewish audiences amid the war between Israel and Hamas and to downplay tensions provoked by an increasingly ultranationalist Russian Orthodox Church," the report said.
As reported by OBOZ.UA:
- Israel expects that law enforcement officers in Russia will be able to ensure the safety of all passengers on board. The country's authorities take seriously attempts to harm Jews anywhere, according to a statement by Prime Minister Netanyahu's administration.
- President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said that anti-Semitism in Russia and hatred of other nations are systemic and deep-rooted. This is what drives aggression and terror, and Ukraine is ready to cooperate with all international partners to overcome it.