Russia says Ukraine played ‘direct, key role’ in Dagestan unrest; Kyiv denies

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Russia on Monday accused Ukraine of playing a “key role” in an anti-Israel riot at an airport in the Muslim-majority region of Dagestan on Sunday.

Dozens of protesters, many of them chanting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest), broke through doors and barriers at Makhachkala airport on Sunday, charging onto the runway and seeking to attack Jewish passengers coming from Israel.

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“The criminal Kyiv regime played a direct and key role in carrying out the latest destructive act,” Russia’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

A senior Ukrainian official said on Monday that Kyiv had nothing to do with anti-Israel unrest in Russia’s predominantly Muslim Dagestan region, rejecting an accusation by Russia to that effect as groundless.

“Of course, Ukraine has nothing to do with the latest large-scale surge of xenophobic sentiments on the territory of the Russian Federation,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters in a written statement.

The Kremlin said earlier on Monday the riot was the result of “external interference” and President Vladimir Putin convened a meeting of Russia’s security officials to discuss “Western attempts to divide Russian society.”

Moscow regularly blames domestic unrest on external -- usually Western -- interference.

Zakharova said the “promptness” and “content” of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s reaction to the riot “are direct evidence of the information-sabotage being carried out by Kyiv’s special forces.”

On Sunday, Zelensky had said the riot was not an “isolated incident in Makhachkala, but part of Russia’s widespread culture of hatred toward other nations, propagated by state television, pundits, and the authorities.”

Zakharova said Kyiv had used a former Russian lawmaker, Ilya Ponomarev, to orchestrate plans for the unrest.

Ponomarev, who fled to Ukraine and was granted Ukrainian citizenship in 2019, is a vehement critic of the Kremlin and has claimed to be behind a number of anti-Moscow sabotage groups and partisan acts since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

He previously provided financial support to the Telegram channel called Utro Dagestan (Dagestan Morning) which called for protests at the airport on Sunday, the independent Sota news outlet reported.

Ponomarev did not immediately respond to an AFP request to comment.

With agencies

Read more:

Airport riot ‘attempt to sow discord’ between Russia’s Jews, Muslims: Orthodox leader

Kremlin: Dagestan airport violence result of ‘outside influence’

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