Eerik-Niiles Kross says he will give up a post as defense minister adviser to clear the air after a daily claimed the popular politician's past activities in various international affairs had made him too politically exposed in the eyes of NATO allies for senior leadership positions.
While denying all facets of the Eesti Päevaleht claim, Kross said over social media and in interviews with papers that he could not stand to see the Defense Ministry involved in a situation where it was seen as providing a soft landing for someone with an unclear past.
Kross had been given the position as adviser with a 600-euro monthly salary, which raised eyebrows: Kross's popularity and recent success at local elections seemed to make him a shoo-in for a post more prominent than mere behind-the-scenes ideologue.
Kross's party, IRL, is sensitive to claims that some ministries are too political. After Kross's name appeared on an Interpol wanted list on the eve of the local elections in October - presumably at Russia's urging over a 2009 case, also murky - the Estonian Interior Ministry faced domestic criticism for intervening on Kross's behalf.
Speaking to Postimees last night, Kross addressed the several outstanding questions in this week's story by two Eesti Päevaleht journalists, such as the claim that he was persona non grata in the United States and that that had some influence on the case.
Kross indicated that the ban was at the level of a no-fly list, not immigration per se.
"As to the US flight ban, I have no grounds to think that it is related to anything other than the same Russian mess," he said, referring to the case of the Arctic Sea, in which Kross's name was mentioned by an informant behind bars in Russia as a mastermind of the purported hijacking.
In comments to ERR News, the US Embassy in Tallinn reiterated government policy of no comment on "visa cases." Whether the mention of visas constituted a confirmation that Kross's problem was in fact an immigration/entry issue cannot be substantiated, but sources outside the Embassy have told ERR News that the case did involve a long-term visa and may have been related to Kross's family situation. He married American filmmaker Mary Jordan in 2011.
Regarding Eesti Päevaleht's assertion of the ban being related to false claims of working for Western intelligence agencies, Kross has in several interviews dismissed the claims of Mossad and CIA involvement as the stuff of boys' comic books and "urban myths."
Kross, who is running for European Parliament, also faced questions from reporters as to whether his bid to become an MEP was to "seek immunity." He denied this. He said he is planning no other changes in his profile, and plans to step up activity shaping IRL's economic and foreign policy positions.