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Latvian government takes over two largest ports amid U.S. sanctions

Christian Fernsby |
The Latvian government decided to take over the Baltic country's two largest ports Riga and Ventspils in a bid to reduce the negative economic impact due to U.S. sanctions imposed this week on several entities in Latvia.

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Topics: LATVIA    PORT    U.S.    SANCTIONS   

The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced on Monday it had included Aivars Lembergs, mayor of the northwestern Latvian port city of Ventspils, as well as four Ventspils-based organizations, to its list of sanctioned individuals and entities.

Lembergs said on Tuesday he would resign from the port's management board in order not to impede the port's operations.

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins and Transport Minister Talis Linkaits said the government had to take control of the two ports to separate them from the sanctioned individuals and organizations so that they can carry on with their operations unrestricted.

As a result of the takeover, the management boards of Riga and Ventspils ports will no longer have representatives of the cities' local governments.

"We must do everything we can to ensure that the businesses operating in the port of Ventspils are affected as little as possible. The port is an industrial zone with 38 enterprises and 14 terminals. The impact on Ventspils residents and related people has to be as small as possible," said Linkaits, adding that the government is taking over the port of Riga as a proactive measure as this port, too, might have some links to the Ventspils mayor and other sanctioned entities.

The transport minister revealed that Latvian Railways and Riga International Airport are terminating their membership in the Latvian Transit Business Association, which is one of the four organizations included on the U.S. sanctions list.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury alleged that Lembergs "controls entities through political parties and corrupt politicians, and systematically exploits those entities and individuals for his own economic gain."

He is also accused of using "his influence over leadership of political parties to shape government personnel and place certain government officials in positions, as well as to obstruct other government officials from obtaining leadership positions."

Four Latvia-based entities that are owned or controlled by Lembergs Ventspils Freeport Authority, Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association and Latvian Transit Business Association have also been added to the U.S. list of sanctioned entities.

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