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Russian Government Spokeswoman Suggests Trump Won Thanks To 'The Jews'


Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova: "You have to talk to the Jews, naturally."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova: "You have to talk to the Jews, naturally."

Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman who has made caustic rhetoric and sarcastic social-media posts a staple of her public outreach, has an idea whom U.S. President-elect Donald Trump can thank for his stunning victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton: "the Jews."

In an appearance that has triggered accusations of anti-Semitism, Zakharova suggested on a nationally televised talk show over the weekend that money from Jewish people played a key role in Trump's win.

Conversations she had with American Jews in September while in New York for the UN General Assembly made it clear that the billionaire businessman would triumph, she said.

"If you want to know what will happen in America, who do you have to talk to? You have to talk to the Jews, naturally. But of course," Zakharova said, prompting applause from the studio audience of Sunday Evening, a show hosted by pro-Kremlin television personality Vladimir Solovyov.

Zakharova then adopted a cartoonish Jewish accent while impersonating her alleged interlocutor.

"They told me: 'Marochka (a Russian diminutive for Maria), you understand, of course, we'll donate to Clinton. But we'll donate twice as much to the Republicans.' That was it! The matter was settled, for me personally," she said.

Zakharova added that "if you want to know the future, don't read the mainstream newspapers -- our people in Brighton [Beach] will tell you everything," a reference to the southern Brooklyn enclave with a large diaspora of Jewish emigres from the former Soviet Union.

Prominent Russian officials made it clear that they were rooting for Trump, who has called for repairing battered bilateral ties with Moscow, though the Kremlin repeatedly stated it had no preference in the race.

While the program aired November 13, Zakharova's remarks only grabbed widespread attention on social media after they were picked up by Ukrainian and Russian-language Israeli websites on November 17.

WATCH: Zakharova's remarks, in Russian (starts around the 3-minute mark):

Her comments sparked accusations of anti-Semitism by suggesting Jews secretly pull the levers of American power.

"It turns out press secretary Zakharova explained Trump's victory as a Jewish conspiracy," prominent Russian opposition activist Roman Dobrokhotov wrote on Twitter.

Michael McFaul, who had bitter run-ins with Kremlin-loyal TV journalists during his tenure as U.S. ambassador to Russia and who has been sharply criticized by Zakharova, wrote on Facebook: "Wow. And this is the woman who criticizes me for not being diplomatic."

Russian journalist Vladimir Varfolomeyev, a staunch opponent of President Vladimir Putin, called Zakharova's appearance "vulgarity masked as diplomacy."

The Russian-language Israeli site Newsru.Co.Il said the Israeli Foreign Ministry had declined to comment on Zakharova's remarks.

Since winning the November 8 election, Trump has faced criticism for appointing as his chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, the former executive editor of the conservative website Breitbart News.

The site is an online hub for the so-called "alt-right," a grass-roots political movement with many adherents who openly endorse white supremacism and anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League calls Bannon the "chief curator for the alt-right" but that it is "not aware of any anti-Semitic statements" he has made.

But Trump did, in fact, defeat Clinton in Brighton Beach and nearby neighborhoods with substantial numbers of Jewish emigres from the former Soviet Union, who are traditionally conservative voters and tend to support Republicans in U.S. presidential elections.

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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.

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