Estonia Russia Transport Ukraine

Kallas on brink over husband’s Russia links

| 2023-08-27 2 min read

Kallas on brink over husband’s Russia links

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Pressure to resign is building on Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas amid revelations that her husband part-owns a company that is still active in Russia.

A staunch Kremlin critic, Kallas has consistently advocated for Europe to sever business ties with Russia and Belarus. Last year she even went beyond official sanction measures by prohibiting Estonian state railways from transporting Russian nickel. Such anti-Kremlin stances have seen Kallas touted as a future NATO secretary-general.

This Russo-sceptic reputation has made last week’s revelations regarding her husband Arvo Hallik’s business links to Russia all the more damaging. Estonian company Stark Logistics, of which Hallik indirectly owns 25%, supplies an aerosol container plant in Russia owned by another Estonian company, Metaprint, reportedly earning around EUR 1.5mn in the 18 months since Russia launched its full-scale land invasion of Ukraine. Moreover, according to local media, Kallas has personally loaned up to EUR 350,000 to her husband’s business.

Kallas denies ‘any immoral activity’

As the couple moved to defend their actions last week, the messages were mixed: as Kallas asserted that Hallik’s companies have not erred, he promised to resign from the board and sell his stake in the firm.

Kallas said “I am absolutely certain and confident that my husband’s companies are not involved in any immoral activity,” Kallas said. “They don’t even purchase fuel from Russia to ensure not a single euro or coin remains in Russia,” she added. Kallas also told members of the press that Stark Logistics is merely assisting another company while it exits Russia.

For his part, Hallik said Stark Logistics had “discussed the issue of transport for our (Russian) client several times, and we believed that we were doing the right thing, helping the right people, and preserving a valued Estonian company”.

Knives out for Kallas

Estonian President Alar Karis, leader of the Social Democrats, the junior coalition partner in the Kallas government, called for her to provide a detailed explanation, which was not entirely forthcoming.

An editorial piece in the influential daily Postimees, described Kallas’s statements throughout the week as “evasive” and told her to “start packing today” to avoid further embarrassment. The country’s other leading daily Eesti Paevaleht said Kallas should resign and call a confidence vote in Parliament. Two opinion polls also showed a clear majority of Estonian voters support Kallas’s resignation.

She told local media: “The opposition is doing its job: naturally, they smelt blood, jackals immediately jumped up. I really do not know what reproaches are being directed at me directly or what I am accused of – I didn’t do anything wrong, my spouse didn’t do anything wrong,” Kallas argued.

Kallas’ centre to centre-right Reform Party, in power since 2021, won 37 seats in the 101-member parliament in the general elections in March, and formed a 60-seat coalition with the liberal Estonia 200 party and the Social Democrats.