“We have to think about what we’re doing, and what we have to do is try to stop the suffering in Gaza … but for them to call for a ceasefire is Mr Putin’s message,” she said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning.
“Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see. I think some of these protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia.”
Her comments came after she was asked if she feared that President Joe Biden would lose the electoral support of young voters at the polls over his vocal support for Israel and the nation’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the war on Gaza.
In a follow-up, she was asked if she thought some pro-Palestinian protests were Russian plants.
“I don’t think they’re plants,” she responded. “I think some financing should be investigated. And I want to ask the FBI to investigate that.”
There is no reported evidence that Russia is linked to pro-Palestinian protests.
Ms Pelosi’s comments attracted criticism, with Nihad Awad, the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, describing her remarks as “delusional”.
“Rep Pelosi’s claim that some of the Americans protesting for a Gaza ceasefire are working with Vladimir Putin sounds delusional and her call for the FBI to investigate those protesters without any evidence is downright authoritarian,” he said.
“Her comments once again show the negative impact of decades of dehumanisation of the Palestinian people by those supporting Israeli apartheid. Instead of baselessly smearing those Americans as Russian collaborators, former House speaker Pelosi and other political leaders should respect the will of the American people by calling for an end to the Netanyahu government’s genocidal war on the people of Gaza,” the statement continued.
She was also criticised by journalist and activist George Monbiot. “If Nancy Pelosi can’t understand why people are calling for a ceasefire, she shouldn’t be in office,” he said on X.
A spokesperson for Ms Pelosi said the former House speaker “supported and defended” the right to peaceful protest but was acknowledging the history of foreign adversaries meddling in American politics to affect elections.
“Speaker Pelosi has always supported and defended the right of all Americans to make their views known through peaceful protest. Informed by three decades on the House Intelligence Committee, speaker Pelosi is acutely aware of how foreign adversaries meddle in American politics to sow division and impact our elections, and she wants to see further investigation ahead of the 2024 election,” the spokesperson said.
Ms Pelosi’s comments marked the first time a prominent US lawmaker has accused Russia’s leader of backing US protesters calling for a ceasefire.
Protests demanding a ceasefire in Gaza have recently occurred across the US including near airports, and bridges in New York City, and Los Angeles, vigils outside the White House and marches in Washington. Demonstrators have also interrupted President Biden’s speeches and events, as well as events attended by Ms Pelosi.
The protests have been organised by a range of human rights, Jewish and anti-war activist groups.
The UN has also demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, where more than 26,000 Palestinians have died, but Washington has vetoed resolutions for such calls in the United Nations Security Council, saying it would let Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which governs Gaza, regroup and rebuild.
A November 2023 poll found that the majority of the US public supports a ceasefire in Gaza, while most of their congressional representatives do not.