November 28, 2013 / 9:33 PM / 4 years ago

Retailer fires Latvia chairman for comments on roof collapse

Rescue workers inspect the site of a collapsed supermarket in Riga November 25, 2013.Ints Kalnins

RIGA (Reuters) - Lithuanian retail chain Maxima Group fired the chairman of its Latvian operations on Thursday after he stirred a furor by saying he felt no real sense of responsibility for a supermarket roof collapse in Riga that killed 54 people.

The chairman, Gintaras Jasinskas, told a news conference he did not see that anyone at Maxima should resign after the collapse that had already brought down Latvia's government.

"May those resign who feel real responsibility. I can look people in the eye," Jasinskas told journalists.

On Wednesday, Latvia's Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis resigned over the tragedy that shattered the Baltic state, leaving the country without a government just weeks before it is due to join Eurozone in January.

"Shareholders have decided to dismiss from his position the chairman of Maxima Latvija Gintaras Jasinskas for his unacceptably expressed opinion at this painful and difficult time for Latvia's nation," the head of Maxima Group Mindaugas Bagdonavicius said in a statement.

Many opinion leaders in social networks called for a boycott of Maxima shops. Some suggested sending a letter to Lithuania's president Dalia Grybauskaitė.

Officials, including Latvia's and Lithuania's foreign ministers, also condemned Jasinskas's comments.

"Most shocking and arrogant statement by Maxima Latvia CEO refusing to assume any responsibility for tragedy ...," Latvia's foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics tweeted from his official Twitter account.

Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius responded to Jasinskas's comments in a press release late on Thursday.

"I regret the irresponsible and insensitive words of the former Maxima Latvia representative that caused pain to families of victims and the whole Latvian nation," he said.

Maxima, the biggest retail chain in the Baltic region, has around 500 supermarkets in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Bulgaria and employs almost 30,000 people.

Reporting by Aija Braslina; editing by Ralph Boulton

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