Jewish groups and U.S. lawmakers condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that the 2016 U.S. presidential election may have been manipulated by Russian Jews.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe Putin ordered the effort to undermine faith in the U.S. election and help elect Donald Trump as president.
“Maybe they’re not even Russians,” Putin told Megyn Kelly, referring to who might have been behind the election interference. “Maybe they’re Ukrainian, Tatars, Jews — just with Russian citizenship.”
“Repulsive Putin remark deserves to be denounced, soundly and promptly, by world leaders,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote on Twitter. “Why is Trump silent?” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) also demanded a response by Trump, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Trump has previously been reluctant to criticize Putin or accept the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia played a role in his election.
Nearly every U.S. senator signed a letter urging Putin to help Russia’s Jews after he took power, in the early 2000s. In public, he mostly has. He speaks outagainst anti-Semitism and Holocaust denialism, and he has invited Jews who fled Russia during Soviet repression to come back.
But some see dark signs in the corners of Putin’s Russia. In January, Haaretz wrote, a pro-Kremlin website published a 5,000-word essay that blamed Jewish groups for chaos around the world — echoing the “Elders of Zion.”
While Putin has portrayed Russia in public as a refuge from far-right and anti-Semitic groups gaining political power across Europe, a report by Democratic Senate staffers accused his government of secretly assisting those same groups as part of its effort to destabilize democracies, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The Russian president’s latest remarks have caused particular concern in Israel, a Jewish state that has provided refuge to the victims of anti-Semitic campaigns around the world. Israel has lately been in a diplomatic crisis with Poland, formerly part of the Soviet bloc, after its leader appeared to accuse Jews of helping perpetrate the Holocaust.