Christian leader decries ‘diabolic’ attacks on Russian churches and synagogues

Lazy eyes listen


Russians of Jewish and Orthodox Christian faith are united in mourning for the people killed on Sunday in the southern republic of Dagestan, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has said. The militants who targeted the places of worship obviously meant to incite sectarian hatred and had “diabolic” intent, he added.

“Everything possible must be done to prevent even the possibility of radicalization of religious life, to exclude any forms of extremism and ethnic enmity,” the Patriarch said.

The spree of violence took place in the regional capital, Makhachkala, and the city of Derbent, 120km to the south on the Caspian Sea. In each city, a synagogue and an Orthodox church were targeted, presumably in coordinated strikes. In another assault, a police station came under gunfire.

The Jewish community in Dagestan, a Muslim-majority region, has been concerned for its safety since a high-profile incident last November. A crowd that was agitated through social media broke into Makhachkala Airport, expecting a flight from Tel Aviv arrive. The mob had been incited by the Israeli military operation in Gaza and the toll it was taking on Palestinians.

Security has been beefed up at synagogues since then, according to the Russian Jewish Congress. A police car was stationed outside the synagogue in Derbent, and several security guards were inside when the attackers struck.

A statement by the organization confirmed that “the officers and guards faced the main strike of the assailants and were killed resisting them.” 

The gunmen used firebombs to set the building on fire. The attack on the synagogue in Makhachkala followed the same pattern.

Militants targeting the Orthodox Christian church in Derbent murdered the resident priest, Nikolay Kotelnikov.