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Putin Criticized for Remarks Insinuating Jews and Other Minority Groups Could Be Behind U.S. Election Interference

2 minute read

The Anti-Defamation League has condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for saying it does not bother him that Russian nationals have been indicted by the special counsel’s office for alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, by arguing that those responsible may not even be Russian nationals, but minorities like Jews and Tatars with dual citizenship.

“I couldn’t care less because they do not represent the government, I could not care less. They do not represent the interests of the Russian state,” Putin told NBC News’ Megyn Kelly in an interview that aired March 9 on the network. “Maybe they are not even Russian. Maybe they are 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?”

Putin’s comments raised eyebrows among Jewish groups given Russia’s history of anti-Semitic attacks and discrimination against the Jewish people. The Anti-Defamation League spoke out against the remarks on Sunday.

“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,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We live in a moment when anti-Semitic violence is on the rise and words can have profound consequences, particularly when spoken by public figures or elected officials like President Putin. We hope he swiftly clarifies his words before they cause further damage to those communities he has singled out.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office indicted 13 Russian nationals last month for attempting to sow discord in the U.S. electorate and interfere in the election, largely through social media campaigns.

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Write to Alana Abramson at Alana.Abramson@time.com