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Dutch ambassador warns against rash conclusions on Ventspils violence

May 16, 2014
From wire reports, RIGA

The Dutch Ambassador to Latvia Hendrik Gerrit Cornelis van den Dool told LETA on May 14 that Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs should not be rushing to conclusions regarding to behavior of NATO sailors.

He said that the incidents are being investigated by both the State Police and the Military Police. The ambassador also added that until the details of the incidents have been made public by the responsible institutions, no side should be rushing to conclusions or making rash announcements. ''Neither I, nor Mr. Lembergs were at the scene at the time of the incidents,'' Dool said.

''Various incidents can take place in a city the size of Ventspils, but we must also remember that the mayor is responsible for safety in the city,'' the ambassador emphasized, adding that the young Dutch sailor that was attacked by local thugs is still in serious condition.

During a visit to Ventspils by a number of NATO and European Union ships last weekend, twice as many persons were fined for disturbing the peace than during the last Ventspils Festival, when the total number of guests of the city was 150 times higher.

"NATO sailors were acting like swine, ignoring the laws of Latvia and the regulations of Ventspils. They got drunk and urinated on window showcases, threw up, consumed alcoholic beverages in public places, which is prohibited," said Lembergs.

He also appeared to find humor in the violence. Reminded about the NATO sailor who was severely beaten up, Lembergs said that "it must have been locals, protecting women from the sailors."

This is not the first time Lembergs speaks disapprovingly of NATO presence in Latvia. For instance, he ironically said: "This would be in Ventspils' interest. We will have 1,000 NATO soldiers and the number of prostitutes will rise rapidly, to the benefit of cafes, restaurants and prostitutes."

LETA also reported that navy sailors participating in the "Open Spirit 2014" international minesweeping exercise were involved in several violent incidents in Ventspils over the weekend; one from the Netherlands is currently in northern Kurzeme Regional Hospital's intensive care unit with a serious head injury.

The man, 21, was taken to the hospital by ambulance early Sunday morning. He suffered a serious head injury, several fractures and cerebral edema. The young man was unconscious and was placed in the hospital's intensive care unit, his condition is currently listed as stable, said the hospital's deputy chief Olafs Kengis.

Whether the NATO soldiers were ignoring local laws and were the cause, or victim, of the violence will be known after an on-going investigation. Lembergs himself has been allegedly violating the laws of Latvia for years, evidenced by the numerous court cases against him for serious fraud, bribery and money laundering charges.

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