On Oct. 29, hundreds of antisemitic rioters stormed the Makhachkala Airport in the Dagestan Republic, a province in Russia’s south bordering the Caspian Sea, in search of a plane arriving from Israel. Before police managed to shut down the airport, at least 20 people were injured. The violent mob, carrying Palestinian flags, shouted antisemitic slurs and accosted passengers, demanding to see their passports to and check their nationalities.

The events in Makhachkala provoked reactions around the world, with people and governments condemning Russia’s antisemitism. In the aftermath of the attack, around 80 people were arrested

However, the Kremlin's reaction does not show the regime’s disapproval of the attack, nor that it stands in solidarity with Russian Jews. Indeed, Russia’s subsequent actions typified the Kremlin's strategy of taking advantage of a tragedy that it allowed to happen, then playing the victim.   


And play the victim it did. In the aftermath of the attack, Moscow not only denied responsibility for the attack, but almost immediately blamed the West and Ukraine for using information warfare against Russia. 

Russia, in making these claims, seeks to accomplish several goals. A key goal is to vilify Ukraine and portray it as an anti-Israel, antisemitic Nazi state. This messaging is also intended to appeal to a domestic audience. Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to accuse the West, once again, of plotting instability inside Russia and triggering secessionist movements. 

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The governor of Dagestan, for example, said that Western powers used a Telegram server to coordinate the attack. Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, added that this was “the result of external information influence.” Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, accused Kyiv of a “direct and key role” in planning the “provocation."”


Russian media, such as RT, immediately attempted to pin the blame on the Russian Telegram channel Utro Dagestan (Morning Dagestan), which it claimed was connected to the Ukrainian government and Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian member of parilament who defected to Ukraine in 2016. The channel was banned by Telegram after the attack. 

Putin did not miss the opportunity to blame the events in Makhachkala as having been inspired “..through social networks, not least from the territory of Ukraine, by the hands of agents of Western special services.” 

Putin, however, is wrong. 

The US immediately refuted this claim. In a White House briefing, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said: “Classic Russian rhetoric, when something goes bad in your country, you blame somebody else.”

This is a good first step, but merely confirming that the US was not responsible for the attack in Dagestan is not enough. Instead, the West should use information operations to tell the truth about Putin’s mistreatment of Russian ethnic minorities and how they are used as cannon fodder on the front lines.  


Irony of Russia’s false claims

The incident in Makhachkala also represents an opportunity to remind the world of Russian antisemitism. While the Kremlin claims that it is “denazifying” Ukraine and that the Ukrainian government is run by Nazis, it is the Kremlin that is endorsing antisemitism inside Russia. 

Russia is itself ethnically diverse, and Putin fears secessionist movements inside the country. He remembers the collapse of the Soviet Union and he believes the West wants to “inflict strategic defeat on Russia” and “dismember” Russia following a “Yugoslav scenario,” i.e. the notion of breaking Russia into small states.

Sergey Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, emphasized that the West supports “separatist terrorist structures calling for subversion of the Russian state order and violation of its territorial integrity.” 

However, it is Putin that is causing dissatisfaction within the regions inside Russia as the Kremlin targets ethnic minorities for Russia’s mobilization.  

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has proven far more costly than Moscow anticipated. Russia’s war can catalyze pro-secession sentiments in various ethnic minorities groups. The will of these groups to secede will only strengthen as hardship in Russia grows due to the combined pressures of war and economic downturn caused by sanctions.  


Despite Putin's claims that the pogrom at the Makhachkala Airport was the result of Western psychological operations and information warfare, the West has been reluctant to use information operations offensively since the end of the Cold War.

Putin’s constant accusations of Western information operations in Russia should serve as an inspiration to Western powers — maybe it is time that the West engages in information operations of its own and to spread truth amidst the sea of Russian lies.

The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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Comments ( 1)

Michael Malone
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You need to ask one very simple question:
How did a people who lived all across their homeland of Palestine end up in a concentration camp called the Gaza Strip to which the Israeli controls all access - all food, all medicine, all clothing, all fuel, everything?

And how did a colonial invader end up controlling the homeland of the Palestinian people, the people who are the descendants of those who have lived there for thousands of years, and are the true people of that region?

Another question you might ask yourself:
Do you think the descendants of those who claim Irish heritage from people who left long ago have any right to invade Ireland, establish terrorist groups, overthrown the government, attack the people of Ireland and drive them off their land, out of their towns and villages, out of their homeland, and create a new state in Ireland?

That is what the Israeli colonial invader did in Palestine.

We fought a war here in Europe because some wanted to drive out the peoples of other nations to create more Lebensraum, more "Living Space".
What was wrong then is wrong now.

Israel uses the antisemite card for immunity, immunity for its crimes against humanity, its genocide of the Palestinian people, and is very adept at this and its propaganda. And just as russians want to deny the existence of the Ukrainian people, and the right of Ukraine to exist, so too do the Israelis with the Palestinian people and their homeland.

Michael Malone
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@Michael Malone,

The Palestinian people are the victims of the Israeli. All else flows from that.
The Palestinian people are the Ukrainians of that region, with the Israeli being the russians.
And just as the Ukrainian people will not cede any of the territory of Ukraine to the russian, then the people of Palestine should not be expected to cede any of their homeland to the colonial invader.

Decent peoples around the world will always stand by the victim, and stand against the oppressor.

The peoples of Western Europe who have long witnessed Israeli atrocity on the Palestinian people generally stand with the Palestinian.
Unfortunately our governments seem afraid to stand up to Israel, perhaps fearing charges of antisemitism, and the end of their careers.

But no matter the cost we should always stand for the victim, and against the oppressor, just as we people of Europe stand with Ukraine and against russia.

I leave you with a few words from Eli Wiesel, a Jew, a Holocaust survivor, and a Nobel Laureate.
"Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Joseph Swanson
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@Michael Malone,
Also, thank you for this well articulated comment you post.

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@Michael Malone, I totally agree.

Joseph Swanson
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@Michael Malone,
100% correct.no one ever defines semitism.
: Semitic character or qualities
: a characteristic feature of a Semitic language occurring in another language
: policy or predisposition favorable to Jews.

Note definition number 2. So, to not show Jewish people favor or privilege constitutes "antisemitism." Imagine that...not showing a group of people favor or privilege is "hate."
Silly me, all this time I thought we were all equal.

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@Joseph Swanson, Congratulations on respecting all human beings as your equal. But where did you get the idea that Jewish people have been treated as if they were "all equal" around the world? Do you think Jewish people having ONE majority state in the world as a refuge from recurring persecution is a privilege? Again, it's great that you respect Jews as equals. But you need to know that historically and widely, Jews have not been treated as equals. With millions of Jewish civilians systematically murdered. And THAT inequality is what anti-semitism is. It is not some inversion of a secondary definition which shamefully ignores genocide.

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