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24 Aug, 2023 16:19

Russia hawk in hot water over husband’s business dealings

A firm co-owned by the spouse of Estonian PM Kaja Kallas reportedly kept working with Russia despite EU sanctions
Russia hawk in hot water over husband’s business dealings

Estonian President Alar Karis has demanded explanations from the Baltic state’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, after local media reports claimed that her husband was doing business with Russia despite EU sanctions imposed over the Ukraine conflict.   

On Wednesday, the broadcaster ERR reported that transport firm Stark Logistics, which is partially owned by Kallas’ husband Arvo Hallik, continued moving some cargo in and out of Russia after the fighting between Moscow and Kiev broke out in February 2022. The company’s CEO Kristjan Kraag told the outlet that it had redirected most of its activities to Poland and Scandinavia during the conflict, but acknowledged that a small number of hauls to Russia still took place.     

In an interview with ERR on Thursday morning, Karis said that Estonian “society is waiting for explanations from the prime minister today” regarding the situation.   

When asked if the revelation that Kallas’ husband was making money in Russia affected Estonia’s international credibility, the president replied by saying that it would be the case “if these accusations are true.”   

“We are seeing more and more of these cases emerging where the sanctions that we’ve agreed in Europe aren’t working,” Karis lamented.   

Later in the day, Kallas held a press conference in Tallinn to respond to the accusations made against herself and her husband.  

The prime minister, who has been among the staunchest backers in the EU of Kiev during the conflict with Moscow, said that she had “always tried to separate work and personal life. But, unfortunately, this time it turned out impossible to do so.”   

“It’s true that I am married to Arvo Hallik, but I have no idea about his business,” she claimed.  

The prime minister insisted that she had only known previously that her husband owned a minority stake in a logistics company. But after the current scandal broke out, Hallik explained to her that “his activities in Russia were terminated in March 2022,” she said. 

“According to my husband, they have an internal procedure in their company, according to which one can’t even refuel in Russia in order not to leave any money there,” Kallas told journalists.   

She also insisted that she shouldn’t be asked about the decisions made by private companies as she’s “not connected” to them. “I have nothing to hide and I’m hiding nothing,” she stressed.  

Kallas has been Estonia’s prime minister since January 2021, becoming the first ever female in the job. The prime minister in the Baltic State is nominated by the president and confirmed by parliament. In March, Kallas’ Reform Party won the general election, claiming 37 seats out of 101 in the country’s legislature, the Riigikogu.