Jewish groups around the world have condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for “pointing the finger at Jews” when asked about meddling in America’s election.
Putin, who has a strong personal relationship with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made the comments during a TV interview with NBC News, aired late last week. In it, he seemed to suggest that Russian Jews were not really Russian.
The remarks were made after he was asked about the 13 Russian nationals who had recently been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election, won by Republican Donald Trump.
“Maybe they’re not even Russians,” said Putin, whose state security services are alleged to have collected compromising information on Trump, according to a dossier compiled by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele.
Asked about these 13 nationals, Putin said: “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.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said: “President Putin bizarrely has resorted to the blame game by pointing the finger at Jews and other minorities in his country.”
He added: “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.”
Jewish Republican Senator Richard Blumenthal said Putin’s remarks were “repulsive” and “deserve to be denounced by world leaders,” asking: “Why is Trump silent? Intolerance is intolerable.”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC), the US partner organisation of the Board of Deputies, said Putin’s comments were “eerily reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” adding: “He should clarify his comments at the earliest opportunity.”
The comments are particularly disconcerting because anti-Semitism is Russia goes back hundreds of years, with vicious pogroms in the early 20th century leading tens of thousands of Russian Jews to flee to Europe and America.