A mob that stormed a Russian airport hunting for Jews got its marching orders from Telegram. Then the channel lost control.

Pro-Palestinian protesters storming an airport terminal in Makhachkala, Russia, October 29, 2023, in this screengrab taken from a social media video obtained by Reuters.

Image from social media via Reuters

A mob in Russia ransacked an airport Sunday, looking for people on a plane from Israel.Their actions seemed directed by a local antisemitic Telegram channel urging people to target Jews.As the mob turned aggressive, the channel started begging it to calm down, without much effect.

A mob of protesters that ransacked a Russian airport in search of Jews on Sunday was incited by an antisemitic Telegram channel.

Morning Dagestan, a channel with some 65,000 subscribers, alerted its followers to a scheduled arrival from Tel Aviv, Israel over the weekend.

The plane was due at Makhachkala International Airport, the main airport Russia’s Dagestan region, where there is a large Muslim majority.

It told them to arrive in numbers, and to yell at and interrogate passengers they thought were Jewish, then to follow them home.

Insider reviewed and translated a number of its posts, and compared them with events at the airport. The respected Institute for the Study of War also identified the channel as driving the mob.

Large crowds showed up, videos from the airport show — the ISW estimated the crowd as numbering in the hundreds; a Russian media outlet citing local officials said there were about 1,200.

The tone of the messages was religious, interspersing its instructions with common Islamic phrases like allahu akhbar, inshallah and bismillah. The channel interspersed posts about the plane with anti-Israel posts and updates from Israel’s war on Hamas.

The crowd at the airport went further than the channel asked, breaking through security cordons and storming through the airport.

Pro-Palestinian protesters on the tarmac of an airport in Makhachkala, Russia, on October 30, 2023.

Image from social media via AP

At that point the channel made increasingly desperate appeals for a level of restraint — asking them to only harass any Jewish people it found and not to attack them.

The group appears not to have found many victims before being confronted by security services. The whole airport was later shut down.

In one post the day before the plan landed, the channel called on “as many people as possible” to gather at the airport to “greet” what it called “unwelcome guests.”

“We must gather as many people as possible at the airport and let this plane full of that scum turn around and leave anywhere else!!!” the post added.

The post included flight information for a Red Wings Airlines plane due to land around 7 p.m. local time.

The channel later posted flight-tracking data following the progress of the flight.

The Telegram channel went on to post detailed instructions, asking people to insist that arriving passengers denounce Israel, then to follow them home and record their addresses. It said that anybody who did not denounce Israel should not be allowed to leave the airport.

However, the people at the airport did not stick to that brief. They were instead recorded running through the airport and at one surrounding a man who insisted he was not in fact Jewish, and taking his passport.

That encounter was the only evidence Insider saw of the crowd confronting a passenger.

As events escalated, the channel posted a message insisting on “No vandalism! No swearing! No assault!”

Another said: “Attention! Brothers! What you have done so far is enough! Just go back to the exit and check the cars there! There is no need to engage in vandalism!!! Tell everyone there!”

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs said on Monday that it identified 150 people who took part in the rioting, and detained 60.

At least 20 people were injured during the mob at the airport, including nine police officers, according to the state news outlet RIA Novosti, which cited Dagestan’s Ministry of Health.

The identity of the Telegram channel administrator is unclear. According to the Financial Times, the channel is affiliated with Ilya Ponomarev, a Kyiv-based Russian-Ukrainian exiled opponent of Putin and former member of the State Duma.

Following the mob, Dageston Governor Sergey Melikov told reporters the Telegram channel was run from Ukraine by unnamed “traitors,” according to the state-run outlet TASS.

Other posts on Morning Dagestan seemed hostile to the Kremlin, at one point writing “death to Russia!”

The Makhachkala airport returned to full operation on Monday at 2 p.m. local time, according to Russia’s Federal Agency for Air Transport.

The events drove alarm around the world, and prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call on Russia to protect its citizens and “take strong action against the rioters and against the wild incitement being directed against Jews and Israelis”.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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