Latvia’s former foreign and defense minister and current Parliament Member Artis Pabriks (Unity) says he does not rule out that the recent incidents in Ventspils, where several NATO sailors were attacked by local thugs, were deliberately provoked.
Pabriks is extremely critical of the controversial comments made by Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs (For Latvia and Ventspils) regarding NATO soldiers. He said that looking from a foreign policy perspective, these comments are "highly unprofessional, provocative, and just plain stupid," reports LETA.
He said that the aim of Lembergs' letter to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was to say that the presence of NATO allies is unwelcome in Latvia, which in turn undermines the country's prestige and position. Pabriks also said that Lembergs' comments are being widely reported in the Russia media.
''Either deliberate or not, Lembergs' point of view has become another weapon in Russia's media propaganda machine. Lembergs' comments are in large part in accordance with Russian interests. People are saying that there have been deliberate provocations organized against our allies. These are the rumors we have been hearing, and they cannot be ruled out,'' Pabriks said.
On previous occasions, when NATO allies arrived for military maneuvers, no incidents were reported, but the situation in Ukraine and the increase in tension on Baltic borders lead us to believe that such provocations are possible. ''Suddenly, we see a string of incidents involving NATO servicemen, which is highly suspicious. I do not rule out that offenses were committed, but the right thing to do in such a situation is to await the results of the official investigation, instead of beginning a public PR campaign,'' Pabriks said.
Lembergs should have discussed this situation with the interior minister first, instead of starting an international campaign, "which is not even his responsibility," Pabriks added.
In one of his regular press conferences earlier this month, Lembergs said that an increased NATO presence and the deployment of additional allied troops in Latvia could be compared to the 1940 Soviet occupation of Latvia.
Lembergs, who is currently on trial for serious fraud, bribery and money laundering charges in Latvia, was named as one of the country's three so-called oligarchs by former Latvian President Valdis Zatlers.