Estonia ambassador to France recalled over alleged state secrets misuse

Clyde Kull presenting his credentials to French President Emmanuel Macron, on taking up his post as ambassador to France in December 2019.
Clyde Kull presenting his credentials to French President Emmanuel Macron, on taking up his post as ambassador to France in December 2019. Source: © Présidence de la République France

Estonia's ambassador to France has been recalled from his post on suspicion of misuse of classified information. The prosecutor's office has initiated proceedings against the official, Clyde Kull, a diplomat whose career spans the entire period since Estonia's restoration of independence in 1991. Kull was detained overnight last Monday.

The prosecutor's office told ERR Thursday that: "This is an initial suspicion, which may change during the course of proceedings."

The suspicion as it stands at the time of writing concerns misappropriation of state secrets and classified information relating to foreign affairs by an official, the and violation of requirements for handling same.

The prosecutor's office confirmed to ERR that Kull was detained on Monday and released Tuesday.

President Kersti Kaljulaid has signed the order recalling Kull, 62, from his post, which he had held since 2019.

Kull's defense counsel Aivar Pilv also confirmed that procedural steps related suspicions against a protected person, i.e. a diplomat, have been carried out and said that his client had not knowingly committed the acts he is being investigated for, nor failed to comply with the diplomatic service's requirements.

Pilv, speaking on behalf of his client, said: "As of yesterday (Wednesday – ed.), Kull had only given preliminary testimony over the suspicion presented before him and explained via a very lengthy procedural act his performance of duties during different periods of time, and also in connection with the circumstances on which the suspicion is based."

He and his client were unable to comment further.

Kull has been Estonia's ambassador to Paris since late 2019, and was prior to that deputy head of Estonia's permanent representation to the EU (starting in 2012).

2008-2011 he was Undersecretary for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He was ambassador to Germany 2004-2008 and has worked in the diplomatic service since Estonia restored its independence in 1991, and was also Estonian ambassador to Belgium in the 1990s, before being its permanent representative to NATO in the same decade, going on to be Estonia's representation at the EU in Brussels and then at the UN Headquarters, in the early 2000s.

President Kersti Kaljulaid decorated Kull with the Order of the National Coat of Arms (Riigivapi teenetemärk), 3rd class, in 2018.

Foreign ministry cannot issue comment at this stage

Kull's employer, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says it cannot comment further on the case at present.

"We can only say that by the decision of the president, Clyde Kull was recalled from office and placed at the disposal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," Aari Lemmik, the ministry's PR chief, told ERR Thursday.

A former foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu called the situation and unpleasant surprise and added that presumption of innocence before proof of guilt should remain intact.

Reinsalu said that he hoped a reasonable explanation would be forthcoming, but added that a general explanation from the ministry would help stave off what he called potential conspiracy theories over Kull's actions.

Reinsalu also spoke highly of Kull's work during his – Reinsalu's – term as foreign minister, which ended in January this year.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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