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Saturday 23.06.2018 | Name days: Līga
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Lembergs and Vejonis exchange harsh words; UGF remains distant

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUFollowing Aivars Lembergs colourful expression of his opinion regarding the presence of NATO soldiers in Latvia, he had an exchange of ‘opinions’ with Latvian Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis. Meanwhile, Latvian Farmers’ Union and Liepaja Party have been reluctant to comment this situation.

Vejonis has already said that Lembergs’ statements go against Latvia’s security interests and creates security risks. This is why the minister plans to call an emergency meeting of the National Security Council in order to assess Lembergs’ actions and decide what to do about this situation.

It should be added that Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma has ordered to call a meeting of the Coalition Cooperation Council in order to discuss matters of national security.

LFU has never had a cooperation agreement with For Latvia and Ventspils. However, Union of Greens and Farmers does have one, said the Green Party’s Chairman Edgars Tavars. The current agenda of LFU does not include the matter regarding a possible discussion of an agreement with For Latvia and Ventspils. However, each situation has its own borders and its own Mayor. The politician added that it is necessary hear out Defence Minister Vejonis’ opinion on this matter.

The decision of UGF’s Board states that Vejonis represents the party’s opinion regarding matters of security. Chairman of LFU especially noted that the Green Party has a clear position on the role NATO plays for Latvia: NATO guarantees Latvia’s security. Tavars added that the current situation formed as a result of Lembergs’ and Vejonis’ inability to discuss this matter in time, and that this conflict should be resolved calmly and without needless publicity.

There is a possibility that the Board of UGF will discuss this matter, because someone will bring it up, said Tavars. He turned attention towards Saeima deputies Dana Reizniece-Ozola and Jānis Vucāns, who have expressed support for NATO even though they are both members of For Latvia and Ventspils Party. Lembergs’ opinion should be considered as personal.

Augusts Brigmanis avoids commenting the matter regarding future cooperation with For Latvia and Ventspils, saying that the matter regarding NATO soldiers will be discussed in detail during the next coalition council meeting.

Chairman of Liepaja Party Uldis Sesks refuses to comment this situation, saying that he has no time. In response to Lembergs’ colourful description of what NATO forces represent in Latvia, Sesks had previously said that his fellow politician ‘should have used an opportunity to remain silent.’

Chairwoman of Reform Party’s Saeima faction Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica asks UGF to explain the situation, specifically the part how a representative of their partner party Aivars Lembergs is allowed to spread ‘absurd statements that are aimed at ruining Latvia’s prestige and security’.

‘Aivars Lembergs’ statements regarding NATO’s military presence in Latvia and its comparison with military occupation, as well as Lembergs’ decision to demand an apology from NATO Secretary General to Latvia and Latvian people falls against Latvia’s security interests and creates risks for state security,’ – said Vejonis.

Lembergs’ opinion – a weapon for Russian propaganda

There have been multiple incidents in Ventspils last week involving sailors who are part of the ‘Open Spirit 2014’ mine-hunting operation. A Dutch sailor was seriously injured and was hospitalized in Ziemelkurzeme Regional Hospital after suffering a blunt force trauma to the head.

Dutch ambassador in Latvia Hendrik Gerrit Cornelis van den Dool notes that this particular incident is being investigated by the Military Police and State Police. He added that sides should not announce provocative assumptions until details of what actually happened are uncovered. ‘Neither I, nor Mr. Lembergs were present at the incident,’ – said the diplomat.

‘Many different incidents can occur in Ventspils. However, we should keep in mind that the city’s Mayor is responsible for its security,’ – said the ambassador, noting the state of the 21-year-old Dutch sailor is serious.

In order to criticize the presence of NATO forces in Ventspils, Russian state media Russia Today uses some of the most colourful statements Aivars Lembergs has to offer on the situation. The article with the title ‘Peed in public, behave like occupiers’: Latvian mayor complains about NATO sailors’ RT condemned NATO in Latvia. The article also includes multiple citations of Lembergs opinion on the presence of foreign military forces in Ventspils.

RT cited the ‘outspoken critic of Latvian-NATO cooperation’ and his opinion that NATO sailors ‘behaved like occupiers, who do not recognize Latvia’s sovereignty’.

Aivars Lembergs’ friendly relations with Russia, including one of his latest statements that the only ones to benefit from the presence NATO soldiers in Latvia would be the prostitutes, was picked up by Russian media in the past as well.

As a result, Lembergs once said on Russian television: ‘We all know how Americans behaved in Japan, Iraq, Vietnam and many other corners of the world. Latvia has a treaty with USA that states that American soldiers are to be stand trial in USA for any offences they perform in Latvia. This is why I believe it is very dangerous to have foreign military forces present in Latvia,’ – he said.

For Latvia and Ventspils party may be expelled from UGF

Lembergs’ opinion has not gone unnoticed in Latvia. Social networks are filled with a furious storm over this kind of opinion. High-rank Latvian officials express their thoughts on this as well. Former Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks condemned Lembergs’ statements on his Twitter page; rhetorically asking if anyone in Ventspils would like to follow the example set up by Donetsk – request independence and join Russia.

Latvia’s current Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis distances himself from the matter, referencing his previous decision not to dwell on such statements. In spite of this, he continues to receive angry comments from society. According to the people, such a position of a minister sounds more like ‘I don’t care’ or ‘leave me alone’.

Public figures express deep concern over the fact that Kremlin’s main television channel shows how the most popular politician of the Union of Greens and Farmers – Lembergs – openly says NATO is a threat to Europe and Russia. They add that Lembergs’ party For Latvia and Ventspils should be expelled from UGF.

Unity’s representative, MEP of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Inese Vaidere told BNN that Lembergs most recent statements came as a complete surprise for her. She believes such an attitude towards this matter is irresponsible. ‘NATO is the only guarantee of Latvia’s security at the moment. Mr Lembergs might not have noticed what is currently going on in Ukraine and what happened in Moldova and Georgia after Russia’s attempts to create the Eurasian Union or even restore the Soviet Union, hoping to include these countries in it,’ – said Vaidere.

‘It is unfathomable how the Union of Greens and Farmers could propose a person with such views as a possible candidate for the post of Prime Minister of Latvia. We can only imagine Latvia’s fate if he had become Prime Minister at some point,’ – says MEP and Chairman of For Fatherland and Freedom/ LNNK party Roberts Zīle.

He believes UGF should decide whether they, as the political party responsible for Defence Ministry and Latvia’s ties to NATO, represent Latvia as a country tied to Western values or a country turned towards Kremlin’s Eurasian Union ideology.

‘These two political vectors cannot meet. This is why we expect this political party to provide a clear opinion and make a political choice – either such statements are acceptable for them or they are not. If UGF remains silent, then there is a high probability that this party may form a coalition with Harmony Centre or any other pro-Kremlin party that may end up in the Saeima after the elections. This scenario is very dangerous, because it may lead to Latvia’s exit from NATO and notable increase of Russia’s influence,‘ – believes Zīle.

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  1. mike walsh says:

    I of course read and comment on unfolding events across Europe and Russia. It is increasingly clear that the Baltic States elite, and their ‘on message’ media, are woefully out of step with their European counterparts.
    It is a sobering thought that the Baltic States may be the only ones left to laud American policy via their surrogate NATO alliance. This will not aid future Baltic security or trade opportunities when the intended Ukrainian regime change falls apart.

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