Estonian PM on husband's Russia business: I promise I have nothing to hide

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Source: Jürgen Randma/Government Office

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said during the Thursday government press conference that she learned of her husband Arvo Hallik and his business partner's activities in Russia on Monday and has nothing to hide. The PM added that Stark Logistics will wrap up its Russia activities in September, based on ethical grounds.

"I have always tried to keep my work and family life separate. Unfortunately, they have now coincided. This matter concerns the activities of my husband's business partner. I have no contact with or a detailed overview of his (Arvo Hallik – ed.) business activity," Kallas said at the government press conference.

"It is also true that my husband owns a minority stake in a logistics company. That is all the information I had until the start of this week. After having been contacted by the media, I put these questions to my husband. He told me that the company used to offer logistics services in Russia before the war, which activity ended a month into the Ukraine war, in March 2022. He also told me that the firm is currently offering services to a single Estonian company [in Russia], which project is also in its closing stage," Kallas said.

The PM emphasized that Stark Logistics has violated neither sanctions nor unwritten rules, and that the company does not refuel its trucks in Russia based on in-house rules.

Kallas said that she cannot be asked about the business decisions of these companies. "I cannot be up to speed on the business dealings of my husband and his business partners."

"What you can ask me is how I feel about the ethical aspect of these activities. I have said it before and I'll say it again. I still believe that all manner of business with Russia needs to cease for as long as Russia's Ukraine aggression continues. And to the best of my knowledge, that is just what my husband did a month into the war. Local companies must find their moral compasses and refuse transactions that might in any way aid the Russian war machine."

"If you have any questions, I remain open to all of them as far as my person is concerned, and I promise you I have nothing to hide and I have not kept anything back," Kallas added.

€350,000 loan did not raise any flags

Prompted by a journalist, Kallas said she asked no questions when she agreed to lend Arvo Hallik's company Novaria Consult €350,000.

"I trust my husband. If he asks me for a loan, I shall grant it if it is in my power. Just as banks are not responsible for the business activity they help finance through loans, neither am I. The loan went to Novaria Consult, which is a different company altogether. My husband's educational background means he is far more competent to assess financial transactions than I am, which is why I decided to grant the loan which has by now been returned to me," the PM said.

"He did not realize that offering services to an Estonian company and paying taxes in Estonia is morally wrong. Now that it is clear, I will be providing my ethical assessment, which is why it [business activity] will be wrapped up in September," Kallas remarked.

"In terms of turnover, it was not generated in Russia. You are offering services to an Estonian company, invoicing an Estonian company, refueling in Estonia, with your trucks and employees also registered in Estonia. He did not realize this activity was morally reprehensible," Kallas added.

"I have not taken an interest or stuck my nose in it before," the premier also said.

The PM said she only learned of the logistics activity Monday.

Kallas later told Delfi news portal in an interview that she sees no reason to consider resigning.

"I do not see the need to consider resigning as I have done nothing wrong. My husband has done nothing wrong. I do not understand what exactly is being held against me here," Kallas said.

"I also not think that the scandal has been blown out of proportion. But I want to understand what it is I am being accused of," the PM added.

ERR wrote Wednesday that a transport company owned in part by Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' husband Arvo Hallik has continued doing business in Russia during the Ukraine war. Kallas said that Hallik has no Russian customers and that the firm in question (Stark Logistics) is helping an Estonian company wrap up its operations in Russia.


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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Marcus Turovski

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