Kristjan Kraag, CEO of Stark Logistics, told ERR in an interview that the company formerly believed its business dealings with Russia to be proper and, all things considered, moral. However, they have since recognized that for many, this is not the case.
Was Stark Logistics, and specifically its financial manager Arvo Hallik, aware that your jointly-owned company, Metaprint, for whom you managed logistics, was doing business in Russia?
Yes, we were aware.
Since the (outbreak of) the war, our only direct or indirect contact with Russia has been through our Estonian client, AS Metaprint, which manufactures aerosol packaging and is also owned by our majority shareholder Martti Lemendik.
We provided Metaprint, an Estonian company, with shipping services as part of an agreement to help them wind down their business in Russia; ie we assisted Metaprint in concluding previously signed contracts.
Given the present circumstances, we have agreed that, regardless of the timeframe in which Metaprint succeeds in fulfilling its contracts and shutting down permanently — volumes have fallen over time — Stark Estonia will discontinue operations in September. All things considered, we conducted our business in an orderly and ethical manner. We recognize now that for many this is not the case.
How many times since the outbreak of the war has Arvo Hallik visited the Association of Estonian International Road Carriers (ERAA) to pick up Russian road permits?
As the association is located close to Arvo Hallik's home, he went there to collect the documents.
All of our cross-border shipments for Estonian clients are properly declared — the content and form of the shipments are lawful. This includes the use of road permits.
Is it true that Russian and Belarusian nationals who were employed by an Estonian company through a Latvian company worked or are working for you as drivers? If so, how many such drivers have you had, and when did you stop employing their services?
No, we do not employ any Russian citizens. At the beginning of the war, restrictions on the workforce supported our decision not to sign direct contracts with Russian and Belarusian drivers. We replaced the drivers with workforce from Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus and Uzbekistan, partly through a Latvian hire company. We only employ people who are legally entitled to work in Europe and Estonia and who have the necessary ERAA papers.
How do you evaluate the ethical performance of your company? Is it appropriate to assist another Estonian company in conducting business in Russia at a time when Estonians are advised to avoid the country even as tourists? Do you recognize that you are assisting another company in conducting business in Russia?
We could not help Metaprint if we did not believe it was good and moral. It is appropriate for us to aid this Estonian company, whose owner we know well and whose claims about reducing its business in Russia we trust.
I would like to remind you that we have no clients, legal counterparts, or settlement partners in Russia. Stark neither buys services from Russia nor sells any services to Russian counterparts. This has been the case since the beginning of the war. We don't have any business in Russia and even before the start of the war we had business with Russian clients of €3,500 in 2021 and €500 in the first quarter of 2022. Since the start of the war, we have sold our transport services to an Estonian company as part of a deal to help them wind down their Russian business by assisting this Estonian company to complete the contracts they had previously signed.
Of course, since the beginning of the war, my colleagues and I have been discussing whether it is morally acceptable to assist a company with an Estonian client, our own majority shareholder, who is in a dire situation. So far, we have collectively always found that it is — all things considered. Now, of course, we understand that not everyone sees it the same way and that is why we will end this cooperation with Metaprint in September.
ERR reported on Wednesday that a transport company partially owned by the spouse of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Arvo Hallik, continued to operate in Russia during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Editor: Marko Tooming, Kristina Kersa