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Maxima retail chain sacks Latvia chairman over comments on supermarket roof collapse

Gintaras Jasinskas told reporters he felt no real sense of responsibility for the collapse that killed 54 people and triggered the prime minister's resignation.

Latvia roof collapse Riga supermarket Nov 21 2013Enlarge
Rescuers search for survivors at the Maxima supermarket in Riga, after the building's roof collapsed on shoppers on November 21, 2013. (ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Lithuanian retail chain Maxima Group on Thursday fired the head of its operations in Latvia over comments he made after the collapse of a supermarket roof in the capital Riga that killed 54 people and brought down the country's government.  

Gintaras Jasinskas caused outrage after he told a news conference that he didn't feel any real sense of responsiblity for the tragedy and therefore would not follow the lead of Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis who resigned on Wednesday after accepting political responsiblity.

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

His remarks were widely condemned and social media commentators called for a boycott of Maxima shops. 

"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. 

Dombrovskis' resignation has left Latvia without a government. President Andris Berzins has to decide whether to reject the resignation or accept it and nominate an acting prime minister, who would then form a new cabinet.

The decision comes weeks before the Baltic state is due to join the Eurozone in January.

 "I announce resigning from the post of prime minister, taking political responsibility for ... the tragedy," Dombrovskis told journalists.

"The country needs a government which is capable of resolving the situation which has emerged," he was also quoted as saying.

More from GlobalPost: Latvian president says supermarket roof collapse is 'basically mass murder'

Last week's roof collapse at the Maxima supermarket was Latvia's worst disaster since the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Latvians were outraged by the incident, with Berzins calling it "murder" and calling for foreign experts to investigate what happened.

A criminal investigation has already been opened to discover the cause of the tragedy. Possible explanations include a flawed design, substandard construction materials and corruption.

Dombrovskis, Latvia's longest serving prime minister, came to power in 2009 and was reappointed twice since then. He is widely credited with preventing the nation from going bankrupt.

"Dombrovskis is highly respected in Brussels for turning around the Latvian economy, securing high growth and guiding it to the brink of euro-zone membership," according to GlobalPost senior Europe correspondent. "His name was cropping up in speculation over who could get top jobs in Brussels next year when the new European Commission is appointed — this would be a setback."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/131127/latvia-prime-minister-resigns-over-riga-supermarket-roof-collapse