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Pro-Kremlin Bloggers Say Anti-Semitic Rioters In Daghestan Are Getting Off Easy. Why?

Officials in the mostly Muslim North Caucasus region of Daghestan have filed about 340 cases in connection with a violent mob attack on the airport in the regional capital, Makhachkala, on the evening of October 29. More than 20 people, including several law-enforcement officers, were injured in the rampage, which caused damage estimated at hundreds of millions of rubles.

Although the mob of hundreds was shouting anti-Semitic slogans and searching for an aircraft from Israel that they believed was carrying Jewish refugees from the Gaza war, all of the charges have been for relatively minor administrative offenses, including violating rules for conducting demonstrations, disobeying a police officer, and petty hooliganism.

But many of the Kremlin’s most militant and outspoken social media supporters — the so-called Z military correspondents after the Latin letter Z that has become one of the Kremlin’s signs of support for the invasion of Ukraine and Moscow’s policies generally — have balked at what they perceive to be the authorities’ leniency toward the rioters, calling for suspects to be charged with terrorism, extremism, or ethnically motivated hate crimes.

“Or are these exclusively ‘Russian’ articles [of the Criminal Code] under which only persons of a certain ethnicity are imprisoned?” wrote one pro-Kremlin Telegram channel on November 2, suggesting the state would impose more serious charges on ethnic Russian suspects in a similar situation.

Law enforcement officers ensure security at the airport in Makhachkala on October 31.


Law enforcement officers ensure security at the airport in Makhachkala on October 31.

“I wonder if some good Russian people decided to have a little pogrom against the administration in the Samara region after Governor [Dmitry] Azarov banned [a Russian] Orthodox procession for the holiday of the Kazan Mother of God icon, would they be given ‘administrative’ charges or charged with hate crimes?” wrote another, echoing that idea on November 5

Others called for a return to “traditions,” under which, they argued, protesters who disobeyed the authorities were subject to “capital punishment in the most exquisite form.”

Hatred is a black box, and its consequences can be unpredictable and uncontrollable.

The reaction is a sign of what analysts say is the potential danger of the Kremlin’s policy of tacitly supporting Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

“The federal authorities thought they could unleash a peaceful process against Zionism, but their propaganda has already ramped up the degree of hatred within Russian society to incredible heights,” said political scientist Mikhail Savva. “Hatred is a black box, and its consequences can be unpredictable and uncontrollable.”

‘Against Other People Doing It’

The objections of the pro-Kremlin bloggers have nothing to do with a desire to combat anti-Semitism, said writer Ivan Filippov, who studies pro-Kremlin social media channels. Although those channels espouse a hodgepodge of ideologies and predilections, they are united by two things, Filippov added: loyalty to President Vladimir Putin and militant Russian nationalism.

Whether you are talking about xenophobia against Daghestanis or Jews or Armenians, they will always be on the same side of the barricades.

“Xenophobia is their uniting characteristic,” he told RFE/RL’s Caucasus.Realities. “Whether you are talking about xenophobia against Daghestanis or Jews or Armenians, they will always be on the same side of the barricades. Whenever there is a need to unite against some ‘foreigners,’ they forget about all their differences.”

“They are really angry because they think the authorities are afraid and so are punishing the Daghestanis lightly or not at all,” he added. “Their reaction to the pogrom is: ‘We don’t care that Jews were beaten. We are just against other people doing it.'”

The channels have fully endorsed the Kremlin’s baseless narrative about the supposed need to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, while at the same time trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes.

In addition, the pro-Kremlin channels see the Daghestan mob as a serious affront to Russian stability and social order, analyst Savva said.

“It is not condemnation for the crime,” he explained. “It is condemnation for crossing the lines the authorities have laid down.”

‘Degrees Of Culpability’

Idris Yusupov, a journalist with the Daghestani publication Novoye Delo, said the objections of the pro-Kremlin bloggers reflect a lack of understanding of the local environment.

“People have a right to their opinion,” he said. “But we should consider how accurate their opinions are. I think the reaction of the authorities has been quite efficient.”

A still from video footage shows pro-Palestinian protesters storming the airport building in Makhachkala on October 29.


A still from video footage shows pro-Palestinian protesters storming the airport building in Makhachkala on October 29.

He noted that Investigative Committee head Aleksandr Bastrykin took charge of the investigation immediately and a criminal investigation was opened into alleged mass public disorder. The calls for moderation that were heard from prominent Muslims, including a group of Daghestan clerics and the chief mufti of Tatarstan, Yusupov said, were motivated by a fear that the authorities would crack down indiscriminately.

“The general thrust of these appeals was that they need to get to the bottom of things rather than just rounding up several hundred people who may have played no role in the violence,” he said.

Yusupov’s own home was searched on October 30 as investigators sought information about a Telegram channel that published calls for people to descend on the airport.

Aleksandr Karavayev, a researcher with the Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Economics, offered a similar assessment of the investigation.

“It would have been much easier for them to just reduce the whole thing to a matter of hooliganism and not go into degrees of culpability,” he said. “But it is important to note that investigators are taking into account that the vast majority were not instigators.”

“We are seeing an attempt to filter out the bulk of the crowd as part of the process of identifying the organizers,” he concluded.

RFE/RL’s Robert Coalson contributed to this report.
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