Prime Minister Kaja Kallas of Estonia found herself at the center of a scandal when it was discovered that her husband, Arvo Hallik, held a stake in Stark Logistics, a shipping company that continued to do business with Russia despite EU sanctions. In response to the allegations, Kallas asserted that she and her husband had done nothing wrong and challenged the opposition to call a no-confidence vote.
During an interview with the state broadcaster ERR on Monday, Kallas stated that she would be willing to appear before the Estonian legislature, known as the Riigikogu, to give an account if a motion of no confidence was presented. However, she announced that she would not attend the joint session of the State Budget Control and the Anti-Corruption select committees the following day, arguing that her husband’s business activities in Russia did not impact the Estonian budget and therefore fell outside the committees’ jurisdiction.
Kallas expressed her desire to understand the specific charges against her and looked forward to addressing them in a public session of the parliament. She emphasized that her frequent visits to various companies should not be misconstrued as taking responsibility for their actions. She also confirmed that Hallik had sold his stake in Stark Logistics for a nominal fee, distancing herself from any ongoing business ties between the company and Russia.
The scandal has put the Estonian Prime Minister in a precarious position, considering her previous stance as a strong supporter of Ukraine and her insistence on severing all business connections with Russia. She visited a client of her husband’s company in January 2022, where a slideshow may have mentioned a factory in Russia. However, Kallas argued that this visit occurred before the conflict in Ukraine escalated, implying that it held no significance at the time.
Kallas maintained that Estonia’s reputation had not been tarnished by the revelations and claimed to have received support from her foreign counterparts. She saw no reason to resign and emphasized the importance of each company finding its own moral compass when it comes to dealing with Russia.
Since taking office in January 2021 as Estonia’s first female Prime Minister, Kallas has been leading her third coalition cabinet, which holds a 59% majority in the parliament. However, recent opinion polls indicate that 57% of Estonians believe she should step down.
The scandal surrounding Kaja Kallas and her husband’s business dealings has raised questions about transparency and potential conflicts of interest. As the opposition prepares to present a motion of no confidence, all eyes will be on the Prime Minister as she navigates this politically challenging situation.