Russia’s Ambassador Valery Kuzmin is used to making headlines in Romania for his outspoken remarks about the role of the Soviet Union in the liberation of Romania and his dislike of NATO of which Romania is a member.
The experienced Soviet-educated diplomat sometimes makes his comments on social media, and last year was summoned to the foreign ministry to explain his disparaging remarks about Romania’s royal family and Romania’s membership of NATO and the European Union
Mr. Kuzmin appears disgruntled that Romania has allied itself to the West and at times, has contributed to the souring of already cool relations and created extra friction with his criticism of Romanian leaders.
Romania and Russia historically have uneasy relations, and Mr. Kuzmin’s tenure as an ambassador has not seen an improvement in the bilateral mood.
The ambassador is however known for his experience and skill as a diplomat, so it was an embarrassing moment for him to be caught on video during a moment “of solemn, historical importance” to mark 75 years since the end of World War II, doing something as mundane, yet intimate as shaving.
Observers who had tuned into the event earlier this week may have even been entertained, watching the 67-year old Mr. Kuzmin, meticulously shave his face with a state-of-the-art electric razor.
For all we know, it may have been more captivating than the speeches inspired by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which Romanian and Western leaders were lambasted as “falsifiers of history” for apportioning blame to both the Nazis and the Soviets for the tragedies of the 20th century.
The event billed as „an international scientific conference” started in the early afternoon of October 6, organized by the Russian embassy. It was called: “75 years from the Victory of the anti-Hitler coalition and creation of the UN: the lessons of history and challenges of the current era.”
Held under current pandemic conditions, the event was part online, part offline and designed to propagate „Russian propaganda under the old slogan “Stalin and the Russian people brought us freedom!” observers said.
Some of the participants were in Bucharest, while the ambassador had recorded a speech, Organizers said he was in Moscow.
“Right in the middle of the 75th anniversary from the great Soviet victory against Hitler, and in the midst of the tireless euphoria of speakers who sweated over quoting Vladimir Putin, Ambassador Valery Kuzmin….. began to shave online,” said one observer,
It was unclear whether he realized that his camera on his laptop was on, or whether it showed his aptitude for multi-tasking.
So who is Valery Kuzmin?
He began his career as a diplomat in 1975 in Moscow, long before the era of glasnost and perestroika of Mikhail Gorbachev.
He served as a diplomat in in Libya and Tunisia and was Moscow’s envoy to Sudan from 1998 to 2003.
He was then appointed ambassador to the former Soviet republic of Moldova from 2007 to 2012, before having a role in organizing the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He was named ambassador to Bucharest in June 2016.
He’s a key player for Moscow according to Romanian lawmaker and commentator Ovidiu Raetchi who wrote: “from 1975 until now, Kuzmin was given assignments to places where Russia has security and military interests. In 1998, his mission was to ‘change the game’ in Sudan. In 2007, he was asked to ‘change the game’ in Moldova. He succeeded both times.”
His occasionally turbulent tenure in Bucharest has seen him summoned by Romania’s foreign ministry in December 2019 after he accused Romania’s royal family of “spreading NATO propaganda” and “fake news.”
The ministry said it had called Mr. Kuzmin “urgently” to the ministry after he reacted angrily to a speech she made to ambassadors in Bucharest, about the geopolitical tensions in the region ahead of a meeting of NATO leaders in London.
In her speech, Margareta, the eldest daughter of the late King Michael I, said: “Let me remind you, all of Russia’s assaults on our security from the attack on Georgia in 2008, to the attack on Ukraine in 2014 and the Russian military intervention in the Middle East in 2015 happened around our part of the world, around what used to be called NATO’s southern flank.”
Margareta also spoke about “aggression” of Russia when Moldova was annexed to the Soviet Union in 1940 under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In turn, Mr. Kuzmin compared Russia’s annexation of Crimea to Romania’s 1918 reunification with Transylvania, Bukovina and Moldova.
In a post on social media, the ambassador referred to the custodian of the Romanian crown, as “Mrs. Margareta” and suggested that Romania is submissive to the West, “receiving crumbs from the boyar’s table.”