Russian ultranationalist politician with Jewish roots praises Trump
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Russian ultranationalist politician with Jewish roots praises Trump

(JTA) — Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a Russian ultranationalist who has made anti-Semitic statements despite having Jewish roots, praised Donald Trump and said the two shared a “closeness.”

Zhirinovsky, whose father died in an accident after immigrating to Israel, offered the U.S. Republican presidential candidate praise during a recent news conference in Moscow, The Times of Moscow weekly reported last week.

“I feel a certain sympathy toward Donald Trump, his manner, his position,” Zhirinovsky, 70, told reporters. “He’s close to me in a way, he speaks freely and reacts instantly.”

Known for making racist and inflammatory statements – in 1996 Zhirinovsky said Russia and the United States should deport their Jews in order “to survive,” and in 2008 he suggested dropping nuclear bombs in the Atlantic Ocean to flood the United Kingdom — Zhirinovsky and his Liberal Democratic Party enjoy considerable popularity in Russia, where he finished fourth in the 2012 presidential election and third in the 1991 vote.

In the parliamentary election of 1993, his party won 23 percent of the vote. Polls suggest he would get 10 percent if elections were held now, in part because of a campaign strategy in which Zhirinovsky promised to work to restore Russia’s greatness during its imperial days, before communism.

Zhirinovsky has angered feminists in Russia with statements seen as demeaning to women. In the 1990s, he promised during a campaign to provide all single Russian women would receive husbands if he is elected president, as well as free vodka and cheap lingerie to all citizens.

Trump, for his part, on several occasions has praised another Russian leader – President Vladimir Putin, who is criticized in the West and beyond for what his opponents say is his crackdown on human rights and authoritarian policies.

In 2007, Trump said on CNN: “Look at Putin — what he’s doing with Russia — I mean, you know, what’s going on over there. I mean this guy has done — whether you like him or don’t like him — he’s doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia.”

Trump in July drew sharp criticism from Democrats and longtime government officials Wednesday when he called on Russia to dig up and release emails his general election rival Hillary Clinton deleted from her private email server. He later said he was being sarcastic.