Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent suggestion that Jews and other minorities in Russia could have been behind the meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has prompted a backlash in the United States.
The U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on March 11 voiced hope that Putin “swiftly clarifies” his remarks made in an interview with NBC News, “before they cause further damage to those communities he has singled out.”
In the interview aired late on March 9, Putin was repeatedly asked about Russian interference in the election. At one point, Putin suggested that Ukrainians, Tatars, or Jews with Russian citizenship may have been involved.
"Maybe they are not even Russians, but Ukrainians, Tatars, or Jews with Russian citizenship, which should be also checked. Maybe they hold dual citizenship, or green cards. Or maybe Americans paid them for this job. How can you know? I do not know," Putin said.
In the Russian language, there are different words for citizens of Russia (Rossiyane) and ethnic Russians (Russkiye), though the latter -- which was used by Putin in the interview, according to the Kremlin transcript -- sometimes has a broader connotation. In English, the single word "Russian" can describe a Russian citizen, an ethnic Russian, or both.
ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement that "President Putin bizarrely has resorted to the blame game by pointing the finger at Jews and other minorities in his country."
Greenblatt also said it was “deeply disturbing to see the Russian president giving new life to classic anti-Semitic stereotypes that have plagued his country for hundreds of years.”
Putin's comment also caught the attention of the American Jewish Committee, which said it was “eerily reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion” -- a forged tsarist-era, anti-Semitic pamphlet that purported to describe plans for Jewish domination of Europe.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (Democrat-Connecticut) called on world leaders to denounce "soundly and promptly" what he called Putin's "repulsive" remarks.
Since the U.S. intelligence community concluded in January 2017 that Russia engaged in a wide-ranging hacking-and-propaganda campaign to sway the presidential election, there has been mounting evidence pointing to an organized state effort. Russia denies the charges.
In February, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for allegedly meddling in the vote, charging them with conspiracy to defraud the United States.