Helmanis' meeting with Avens was a mistake - National Alliance

  • 2023-02-06
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The National Alliance acknowledges that Ogre Municipal Council Chairman Egils Helmanis made a mistake by meeting Russian billionaire Petr Aven, who is subject to European Union sanctions, at his property in Latvia, Jurgis Klotins, an MP of the National Alliance group in the Saeima, told LETA. 

The earlier plan to organize an exhibition of artworks owned by Avens was also a mistake, Klotins said, adding that both the council and parliamentary group of the National Alliance are unanimous that Helmanis' actions had been unacceptable and misguided. 

As for the posts held by Helmanis, the National Alliance is not going to call on him to resign from any of them, Klotins said when asked if Helmanis will be expelled from the party or urged to stand down from Ogre Municipal Council. 

As reported, one of the most prominent members of the National Alliance, last December met with Russian billionaire Petr Aven, who is subject to European Union sanctions, at his property in Latvia, TV3 reported on Sunday.

Both Helmanis and Aven have confirmed that Helmanis met Aven at the billionaire's Klaugi manor in Latvia last December. Helmanis said he was interested in Aven's position on Russia's war in Ukraine and why the billionaire was in the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 last year, which is when Russia's invasion of Ukraine began. Aven has also confirmed he met with Helmanis, for exactly the same reasons mentioned by Helmanis.

As reported, the EU has imposed sanctions on Aven as one of the oligarchs closest to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who actively provided material or financial support for Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, and benefited from them. Avens said he would turn to court to appeal these accusations.

According to TV3, not only Aven's bank assets have been frozen in Latvia, but also a property in Riga, on Krisjana Valdemara Street, where he was planning to open an exhibition of his porcelain and art collection. Likewise, a land plot of almost 60 hectares in Lazdona County has been arrested, as well as Aven's state-of-the-art Klaugi manor with several buildings and a helicopter landing pad. Also encumbered have been

Aven's properties elsewhere in Europe - the Italian police have seized Aven's villa in Sardinia, and his property in London has also been arrested.

Aven is not prohibited from traveling to Latvia, because he is not only a citizen of Russia, but also a citizen of Latvia, said TV3.

Ogre History and Art Museum was planning to open exhibition Riga Art Porcelain, 1925-1940, on February 1, which would showcase items from Aven's private collection, works by Romans Suta, Aleksandra Belcova and Sigismunds Vidbergs, but the opening of the exhibition has been canceled.

According to TV3, opening of the exhibition was put off most likely due to multiple objections, including from the Foreign Ministry of Latvia. Helmanis said in a text message that he could neither confirm nor deny it.

The exhibition came as an unpleasant surprise for both the government and Helmanis' fellow party members, said TV3.

Commenting on the exhibition of Aven's private collection at Ogre History and Art Museum, Helmanis previously explained that the exhibition would showcase painted porcelain works by Latvian artists, which are a unique part of Latvian culture.

"In my opinion, we should not politicize this art created in the last century after Latvia became independent. There can be no sanctions on these great artists - Suta, Belcova, Cirulis and others, we do not need to subject these artists to sanctions and hide their works away," emphasized Helmanis.