Olmert says he understands Russian

Kadima rally reaches out to Russian immigrants who supported Sharon.

olmert 298 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
olmert 298 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a crowd of some 750 immigrants from the former Soviet Union at a Kadima rally in Nazareth Illit that he understood the language and the needs of Russian speakers. Olmert said his parents moved to Shanghai, China, where they sought refuge during the Holocaust, his father from Samara, Russia, and his mother from Odessa, Ukraine. They later moved to Israel from Shanghai. When he was growing up in Binyamina, Olmert said, his parents would speak Russian to his grandmother so he wouldn't understand but he picked up the language. "I understand Russian, but I am too shy to speak it," Olmert told a crowd that included many Red Army veterans, who wore their medals to the rally because Thursday was Veterans Day in the Red Army. Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter said at the rally that his father fought in the Russian army during World War II. Kadima used the event to showcase Russian-immigrant candidates Michael Nudelman, Rena Greenberg, Yulia Shemlov and Anastasia Michaeli. The decision to target Russian-speaking voters, who make up nearly a sixth of the voting population, came after Kadima lost three seats in the polls among Russian-speakers after Olmert replaced Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon was popular among Russian immigrants, because he spoke Russian and was seen as a war hero. "Sharon is fighting for his life and we are fighting for Sharon's way," Olmert said. "We will take the torch from him and lead Kadima to victory." Olmert called Dichter "one of the greatest warriors Israel had other than Sharon." He told the crowd that he had expressed his outrage to the Russian prime minister about Russia's invitation of Hamas to Moscow. Kadima distributed 200,000 copies of a newsletter in Russian profiling Olmert and other top leaders. The newsletter was printed in every Russian newspaper and another 50,000 will be circulated in Russian neighborhoods over the weekend. It contains articles about Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other top Kadima officials and interviews with them on matters of concern to the Russian-speaking community. Deputy Absorption Minister Marina Solodkin said that Russian-speakers were gradually getting to know Olmert better and that Russian-immigrant voters do not see corruption as an important issue in an election.