U.S. lawmakers, Jewish groups and prominent Jewish figures bristled at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that various minority groups, including Jews, could have been responsible for interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“It is deeply disturbing to see the Russian president giving new life to classic anti-Semitic stereotypes that have plagued his country for hundreds of years, with a comment that sounds as if it was ripped from the pages of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’” Jonathan Greenblatt, Anti-Defamation League chief executive, said in a statement. “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is an anti-Semitic pamphlet published in Russia in the early 20th century that warned against Jewish world domination.
Putin, in an interview with NBC News’ Megyn Kelly, denied personal involvement in attempts to influence the election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies last month for attempting to interfere.
Putin instead deflected blame onto minority groups.
“Maybe they’re not even Russians,” he told Kelly. “Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.”
Anti-Semitism remains rampant across Russia, even though Putin has promoted a facade of tolerance. He encouraged Jews who fled the Soviet Union to return, but the number of Russian Jews who have fled for Israel in recent years has risen.