Putin claims without proof that airport riots targeting Israelis were staged from Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin leads the meeting with top security and law enforcement officials in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. Russian President Vladimir Putin has called a meeting of top security and law enforcement officials after a mob stormed the airport in Dagestan shortly after a plane from Tel Aviv landed there. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin sought Monday to deflect blame from the Kremlin for a riot in the southern region of Dagestan that targeted a flight from Israel, charging without evidence that Ukrainian agents of Western spy agencies were behind the rampage.

More than 20 people were hurt — none Israelis — in the clashes Sunday night that Putin cast as part of U.S. efforts to weaken Russia.

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Hundreds of angry men, some carrying banners with antisemitic slogans, rushed onto the tarmac of the airport in Makhachkala, the capital of the predominantly Muslim region, looking for Israeli passengers on the flight from Tel Aviv.

Police officers and civilians were injured and two of them were in critical condition, regional health authorities said. More than 80 people were detained in the unrest, according to police. Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal probe on charges of organizing mass unrest.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called Putin’s allegation that Western entities were behind the violence “classic Russian rhetoric.”

“The West had nothing to do with this,” he added, criticizing Putin for not doing more to condemn the violence, which he described as “a chilling demonstration of hate.”

Russia has issued carefully calibrated criticism of both sides in the war between Israel and Hamas, a conflict that is giving Moscow new opportunities to advance its role as a global power broker.

Video and photos on social media showed some in the crowd waving Palestinian flags and shouting “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great,” as they broke into the airport terminal. Some held handwritten banners saying, “Child killers are not welcome in Dagestan.”

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