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Romanian Intellectuals Publicly Appeal To Putin And Xi For Help, But Some Now Getting Cold Feet

A woman waves a Romanian flag during a protest in Bucharest.
A woman waves a Romanian flag during a protest in Bucharest.

BUCHAREST -- Soured co-founders of a conspiracy-minded fringe organization called Group for Romania (GPR) are distancing themselves from the group and its anti-Western message after it appealed for Chinese help and Russian intervention to restore lost Romanian "sovereignty."

In recent weeks the group -- which has included university lecturers, a former judge, economists, as well as prominent actors -- appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping for salvation from a "Judeo-Euro-Atlantic political regime." Some GPR defectors have criticized that message as "shameful" and "unforgivable," and a well-known Romanian political scientist has described it as a risky result of "hallucination."

In a March 26 online petition titled Communique No. 9 On Relations With The Russian Federation, addressed to Putin and other Russian leaders, GPR listed perceived racial, ethno-nationalist, and historical grievances and said that "Romania has fallen from the status of a colony to the status of a territory under foreign military occupation. We hope, Mr. President Putin, that you will help Romania in future historical moments to become a sovereign country again." By April 5, the petition had attracted 17 signatures.

Days later, Communique No. 10 was directed at China and urged Xi and Beijing to help Romania "escape the underdevelopment to which it was condemned by the Judeo-Westerners who seized the country in the decades after the assassination of former President Nicolae Ceausescu," the hated communist dictator who was summarily executed along with his wife in December 1989.

Romanian public opinion and government actions have been broadly united in their opposition to Russia's full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February 2022, including with support for providing Kyiv with military aid alongside other NATO members.

Contacted by RFE/RL's Romanian Service, a number of GPR's founders and other prominent figures denied they had anything to do with the appeals to Moscow and Beijing.

Actor Florin Zamfirescu, who has been a member of the group for a decade and was the group's spokesman as recently as January, said he opposed the overture to Moscow and had quit the organization after seeing the text of an earlier communique.

"Yes, we have a difficult situation in the EU, but addressing the opponent as proposed by the person who wrote the communique is unforgivable!" Zamfirescu said in a written statement. "We are in the European camp, and the only way to correct something we don't agree with is between us, not apart!"

Zamfirescu likened the communique to Putin to the Romanian communists' capitulation in 1944, "when they handed over the country to the Soviets."

One of the supposed signatories, actor and director Dan Puric, told RFE/RL he withdrew from GPR long ago, although he didn't specify when. He was listed as a member of the organization in a January strategy document. "Whether it's the United States of America or the Russian Federation, our position must be balanced, dignified, and free from such servile attitudes," Puric said. "I consider this petition shameful."

Adrian Toni Neacsu, a prominent lawyer and civil servant who was among the members in January, also distanced himself from the communiques. "I didn't sign any petition, and I didn't discuss it," he said. "I don't do politics, and my opinions are exclusively about legal and constitutional issues."

The Group for Romania announced its arrival as a civic initiative in 2015 with a so-called Citizens' Constitution prescribing radical populist solutions to retake political and economic power and restore moral and spiritual values. It alleged that a "transnational financial mafia stole our state" and set its goal as winning parliamentary, presidential, local, and European Parliament elections in order to retake Romania by "cleaning the state leadership of traitors and replacing them with patriots."

But it never gained a serious political footing and has rebranded itself multiple times since, including following the death in March 2019 of its original ideological architect, economist and outspoken sovereigntist Constantin Cojocaru.

In January, the group declared in a statement that its leadership was establishing a "civic entity for debate on the fundamental problems facing our society." It said its stated objective was to "ensure the restoration of Romanians' property rights over their country [and] to defend the identity values of Romanian civilization."

Since the announcement, official GPR social-media accounts have been more active, spreading messages that are primarily Christian and nationalist but also attack liberal-leaning political groups in Romania or the West and warn against corruption and the misrepresentations of history. Among other conspiratorial themes, they have described the Ukraine war as a conflict "between Russian nationalists and Jewish power worldwide" and have cited "highly informed sources" to reinterpret the Russian Revolution as a Jewish conspiracy.

The new strategy appears to have led directly to the appeals to Xi and Putin that came as a shock to some of its longtime members or supporters. "It's clear that the [communiques'] text was written on a level of hallucination by someone who believes that he can intervene with the world's major governments to save Romania from an alleged political-economic disaster," said Andrei Taranu, vice dean of the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration in Bucharest (SNSPA), who has no affiliation with the GPR.

It was illogical, he said, to invite foreign leaders to ensure Romania's survival, and he wondered aloud whether such an apparent request for outside intervention in the context of the current war in Ukraine risked investigation for treason.

"Are you calling on the armies of the Russian Federation to come and occupy Romania to take care of..Romania?" Taranu said. "It is an absolutely terrible approach, from my point of view."

Not all of January's strategic signatories have renounced the communiques.

Cezar Dinu-Avramuta, an activist and educator dubbed the "Dacia flag-bearer" after images went viral of him waving the ancient military standard of a serpent with a wolf's head during last year's teachers' strike, says the communiques are useful and necessary in Romania's "deep" interests. He told RFE/RL's Romanian Service it required "deep knowledge of history, international relations, and international security," and added that Putin and Kremlin politicians would understand it.

Writer and casting director Miron Manega says he signed it, too. "There are now, in the world, two pillars of sovereignty: [U.S. ex-President and presumptive Republican presidential nominee] Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin," he said. "The existence of these global landmarks of sovereignty enables the sovereigntism of smaller states like Romania. However, Donald Trump is far away and is not yet president. Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, is president, he is close to us, and he is powerful."

Written by Andy Heil based on reporting by Oana Despa of RFE/RL's Romanian Service

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