Vladimir Putin: Maybe 'Jews With Russian Citizenship' Meddled in U.S. Elections

Russia's Putin tells NBC 'I do not care at all' about alleged Russian meddling ■ Israeli lawmaker says 'hatred of Jews' lies at the root of Putin's claim

Russian President Vladimir Putin during his interview with NBC network anchor Megyn Kelly at the Kremlin in Moscow, March 1, 2018.
ALEXEI DRUZHININ/AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested in an interview with U.S. TV network NBC News that Jews were behind Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election.

In the interview, which was aired by NBC late on Friday, the Russian president was asked if he condoned the interference by 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies detailed in a US indictment.

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“I do not care at all, because they do not represent the government,” he said, according to the interview transcript posted Saturday by the Kremlin.

“Maybe they are not even Russians but Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews but with Russian citizenship, which should also be checked; maybe they have dual citizenship of a green card; maybe the U.S. paid them for this. How can you know that? I do not know either,” he said.

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Following the release of the transcript, Israeli lawmaker Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) said she expects the government to condemn Putin's "harsh" words, saying that "if Israel does not defend the Jewish people, no one will." 

"Maybe the Jews meddled in the U.S. elections. Maybe the Jews rule the world, maybe the Jews slaughtered Jews in Poland – all of these claims have one root cause – a hatred of Jews," Svetlova said.

In the interview, Putin said Russia has neither the tools nor the will to meddle in elections. He repeatedly complained during the interview that Washington has brushed off Russian initiatives to work together on cybersecurity issues.

"But the U.S. refuses to work like this and instead throws 13 Russians to the media," he said, going on to list the possible ethnicities that would make the suspects "not even Russian."

"Maybe they have dual citizenship or a green card; maybe the U.S. paid them for this. How can you know that? I do not know, either," the Russian leader said.

Putin claimed that the United States interferes in Russian elections "all the time" but that it was "impossible for us" to do the same.

"First, we have principles whereby we do not allow others to interfere in our domestic affairs and do not get into the affairs of others....Secondly, we don't have this quantity of tools," he said.

The NBC News interview was conducted in two parts, on March 1 and March 2. Kelly noted that Putin made the remark about not having the tools to disrupt the U.S. election shortly after he announced that Russia had developed major new nuclear weapons.

"This isn't missiles. This is an absolutely different sphere of activity," Putin responded.

Putin also mocked the "yelling and hollering in the United States Congress" over the alleged meddling and called for the U.S. to supply hard evidence.

“I have to see first what they’ve done. Give us materials, give us information,” Putin said.

When asked whether Moscow would take action against these individuals, Putin replied that “We cannot respond to that if they do not violate Russian laws.”

The office of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three firms last month with interfering in the 2016 presidential vote as part of what it called a conspiracy to support Donald Trump and disparage Hillary Clinton.