Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the National Grain Center in Krasnodar, Russia, on Monday, six days ahead of the country's presidential election. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
March 12 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing criticism over comments suggesting Jews and other minorities may have been responsible for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
During an interview with Megyn Kelly on U.S. television, Putin said he "couldn't care less" about accusations of Russian interference in the election and 13 Russian nationals who were charged by U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller last month.
"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 said.
"Maybe they're not even Russians, but Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked," Putin said when questioned about who meddled in the election. "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."
U.S. leaders and Jewish advocates including Sen. Richard Blumenthal criticized the Russian president's remarks.
"Repulsive Putin remark deserves to be denounced, soundly and promptly, by world leaders. Why is Trump silent?" Blumenthal tweeted.
Meanwhile, surveys conducted by Russia's oldest pollster indicate growing support for Putin who is running for office as a self-nominee in an upcoming election.
An All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center poll showed 74 percent of respondents plan on voting in Russia's presidential election on March 18. Sixty-nine percent said they intended on voting for Putin.
"The poll results demonstrate about the same figures as at the previous elections. I am sure Vladimir Putin's results at the upcoming election will be slightly bigger than at the elections in 2012," Dmitry Gusev, president of the Bakster Group, told government-owned TASS news agency.
"Since 2012, the international situation has changed, as has the situation in the country but Putin's electorate is stable. Moreover, it is growing," Gusev said, adding that "more people will vote for Putin than at the previous election."
Researchers told TASS they found candidate and TV host Ksenia Sobchak has the highest unfavorability rating among the Russian candidates.
"Ksenia Sobchak tops the unfavorability rating: 82 percent are not going to vote for her under any circumstances," the center's Valery Fedorov said.
Eight contenders are running for Russia's presidency, including incumbent Putin, Sobchak, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, businessman Pavel Grudinin, Yabloko party co-founder Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the Party of Growth and business ombudsman Boris Titov, head of the Russian People's Union party Sergey Baburin and leader of the Communists of Russia Maxim Suraikin.