The Russian President Vladimir Putin is under fire over remarks that Jews and other minorities may have been behind interference in the 2016 American presidential election.
In a feisty interview with the American TV channel, Mr Putin dismissed accusations of Russian meddling in the campaign that brought Donald Trump to office.
Last month, 13 Russian nationals were indicted by an American grand jury over alleged interference as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
But Mr Putin told NBC he “couldn’t care less” about the development, adding “Maybe they’re not even Russian. Maybe they’re Ukrainian, Tartar, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship.”
In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League said it was "deeply disturbing to see the Russian president giving new life to classic antisemitic 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 teh Elders of Zion".
As the Russian government faced further quesetions on possibly meddling in the election, "President Putin bizarrely has resorted to the blame game by pointing the finger at Jews and other minorities in his country," the ADL said.
"We live in a moment when antisemitic incidents are 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".
The American Jewish Committee also described the comments as “eerily reminiscent" of the Protocols and called on the Russian leader to clarify them, according to the Times of Israel.
The Protocols were a notorious forgery from early 20th century Tzarist Russia which claimed a secret Jewish conspiracy to control the world.
Israeli MK Nachman Shai, of the Zionist Union, denounced Mr Putin’s words as “classic antisemitism”.
Mr Mueller’s investigators are examining whether foreign nationals tried to influence the American presidential election by spreading fake news about Democratic contender Hillary Clinton and other candidates.
Mr Putin has generally maintained good relations with Russia’s Jewish communities during his political office.
He contributed to the new Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre in Moscow and visiting it five years ago, he observed that “Russia has been a home to the Jewish people for centuries… Jewish individuals have made enormous intellectual, military and and labour contributions to the development of our nation.”
Two years ago, when he heard about antisemitism in Europe from a visiting delegation of the European Jewish Congress, he suggested that Jews move to Russia.