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A dog’s life - how Berzins and Lembergs try to avoid biting ‘Russia’s hand’

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUIs it hard to turn away from the past and ‘bite’ the hand that has been ‘feeding’ you or, in other words, has been helping you climb the career ladder, even if it means sacrificing some country’s independence? If we take Aivars Lembergs and Andris Berzins and their statements in regard to the events in Ukraine as prime examples, this seems the case. It was thanks to the Soviet regime in Latvia that the two were basically catapulted up the ranks and now simply cannot hide their sympathy for Latvia’s eastern neighbour.

Olivers Everts mentioned similar observations in his interview to Opinions section of TVNet. Aivars Lembergs and President Andris Berzins know each other since the Soviet times, when the two were part of the Soviet nomenclature. This apparatus united some of the most loyal servants of the Soviet regime. These very people also enjoyed all the privileges their posts provided them.

‘At the time, when most of Latvia’s population hated the Soviet regime and its act of degenerating society, they were not among the critics of the totalitarian regime, because this regime guaranteed them great career opportunities,’ – says the author.

Although accused of serious crimes, Aivars Lembergs remains one of Latvia’s wealthiest residents. Andris Berzins is the wealthiest pensioner in Latvia – at the beginning of 2014, his pension was LVL 55,000.

Soviet push for a successful business

After the change of government, Lembergs once said: ‘It was easier for those who had large properties and hoped to recover them. I, on the other hand, had to choose a side – independence or preservation of USSR. Those who did not have much to lose at the time (laboratory staff or other labourers) had it easier…’

There were definitely difficulties in terms of choice for Lembergs. According to documents acquired by Kompromat.lv, as a student of LVU in 1973, was also an agent of KGB. His nickname was ‘Peteris’. On August 8th, 1973, Lembergs was dismissed due to his decision to join the Latvian Communist Party and his following work as Ventspils District Committee Instructor. In 9178, he was listed as an officer of KGB reserve.

‘On January 5th, 1991, the Third Department of KGB, which was in charge of military counter-intelligence, sent a telegram to Soviet military and navy bases around the country. In this telegram, as it was uncovered by Russian investigators, there were orders from the head of KGB to found private commercial companies in order to sell military technologies to foreign powers. New companies were to become a cover for KGB leaders and the most valuable operatives. These companies were meant to provide finances for the organization’s work undercover should “destructive elements” ever come to power.’

It is mentioned in Times Magazine’s survey that over the course of 1989 to 1991, one of the main objectives of KGB was to create joint-companies with foreign countries. Officially these companies were listed as the main engines of the Soviet economy of the Perestroika era. Unofficially, however, they were a one-way road for sucking away state or party funds to offshore accounts of high-rank leaders and KGB officers.

It should be added that Ventspils’ octopus combines multiple well-known companies in Latvia. Their co-founders are former Latvian KGB officers. According to Vilis Seleckis, author of the ‘Shadows over Ventspils’ book, writes: ‘if KGB and elites of the Soviet Communist Party had any economic interests in Latvia, the first and foremost location is Ventspils port, through which the Soviet Union pumped one-seventh of its export oil. If this is true, Ventspils port served mainly those who saw Latvia as their colony. It is no surprise that these people chose the most loyal operatives from their reserves to help secure their interests.’

Loyal to the east

Lembergs’ loyalty towards Russia was demonstrated by him several times. He had mentioned once: ‘I know only Russian language. I often tell my son: if you want to do business, you don’t have to know any foreign languages, but you absolutely must know Russian language.’ During the recent event in Ukraine, Lembergs had said it a number of times that Latvia should keep quiet and not try to ‘teach Russia how to live’. One of his latest comments implied the introduction of NATO forces in Latvia would mean a military occupation, similar to the one Latvia suffered in 1940.

Lembergs believes: if NATO were to introduce its forces to Latvia, this could mean that Latvia may become a potential battlefield between USA and Russia. This would threaten Latvia’s long-term economic, social and security interests. However, as Olivers Everts writes: ‘Mr Lembergs forgot or did not want to mention that Latvia’s territory has been a potential battlefield for the past 50 years. And this was largely against the will of the Latvian people, because Latvia’s territory housed not only foreign and Soviet military forces, but also nuclear weapons (near Ventspils as well) at one point or another. This means that all this time Latvia was at risk of an open military conflict.’

‘Lembergs was an officer of the Soviet army at some point. He either was not aware or had sincere beliefs that the Soviet forces had threatened Latvia’s economic, social and security interests. I do not remember ever reading about Mr Lembergs protests about Soviet nuclear weapons being stationed on Latvia’s territory as well,’ – says Everts.

While Lembergs is busy scaring people with possibilities of war and financial problems, President Andris Berzins’ inability to accurately formulate his opinion on the situation in Ukraine and society’s complaints have resulted in an open letter requesting the dismissal of the current President of Latvia.

Neither Lembergs nor Berzins are left without defenders. According to Everts, ‘there are numerous commentaries on the internet that are aimed at critics of the President. These counter-comments call these people all kinds of names that are not unlike those usually used to quell opposition in Russia. Those are mostly the same humiliation clichés that are used by Moscow in its information war against Ukraine, EU and NATO. By using propaganda clichés developed by Kremlin, certain elements are trying to compromise Latvia’s society’s beliefs that Latvia should have a leader whose western-oriented values and principality cannot be influenced.’

Berzins’ and Lembergs’ defenders

Even though Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze does not formally belong to Aivars Lembergs, it is incredibly hard to find any criticism about Lembergs or Berzins. It seems some media types can be classified as guard dogs that bark at anyone who dares say anything bad about ‘certain’ aforementioned people.

‘It is hard to find any constructive articles about democratic values of the EU and NATO, about tolerance in regard to minorities, gender equality and other democratic values the EU and NATO protect. There are plenty of articles about the President’s foreign visits with post-Soviet dictators and even more articles that laugh at EU democratic values,’ – comments Everts.

He continues: ‘There is a general impression that the spiritual space of this newspaper is isolated from Latvia’s internal processes. Like religious fanatics they write their ideological leaders’ opinions and values. This is not unlike the situation with pro-Kremlin ideologists. This does, however, contradict western democratic views about the role of mass media in a developed society.’

Ref: 103.109.109.5884


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  1. Linda says:

    words fail me … what sort of people are these that they would sell their country and citizens to a megalomaniac in the Kremlin.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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