Ukraine's Zelenskiy: Airport riot shows Russia cannot score 'strategic' victory

FILE PHOTO: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy gives a press conference in Odesa.

(Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday that anti-Jewish unrest in Russia showed that Moscow's moral foundation had become so contaminated by hate that it was no longer capable of scoring a "strategic" victory.

Zelenskiy said the storming on Sunday of an airport in southern Russia by protesters looking for Jewish passengers was the second time this year Moscow had lost control over events, after an abortive uprising by Russian mercenaries in June.

The airport riot in mainly Muslim Dagestan, Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address, showed Russia "had contaminated its own territory with such a level of hatred and degradation that for the second time this year in Russia, control over events is being lost.

"When insurgents head to Moscow and no one stops them and there is a breakdown of the power system in Dagestan, a real pogrom occurs," he said, a reference to unrest targeting a specific group.

"These are all signals that Russia can, for the time being, sustain military action and increase pressure on the front lines in some places, but is not capable of withstanding this confrontation strategically," he said, referring to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Aviation authorities closed the airport for a time in Makhachkala after crowds poured onto the runways in search of passengers arriving from Israel. Videos obtained by Reuters showed the rioters waving Palestinian flags, breaking down glass doors and running through the airport.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the violence was the result of "outside influence" and that "ill-wishers" had used images of suffering in Gaza to stir people up. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, accused Ukraine of a "direct and key role" in preparing the "provocation".

Kyiv denied this

(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Oleksandr Kozhukhar; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)