Kallas scandal attracts minimal attention from world media

Kaja Kallas speaks to the media during the European Council meeting in Brussels in February 2023.
Kaja Kallas speaks to the media during the European Council meeting in Brussels in February 2023. Source: SCANPIX / REUTERS

The current scandal surrounding Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' (Reform) in relation to a company part-owned by her husband, Arvo Hallik and its continued business interests in Russia, has so far failed to attract much attention in the international press.

On Thursday, the scandal was covered briefly on  by international news outlet Politico and was front-page news in the Financial Times (FT). Two articles on the story also appeared in U.S. business daily Bloomberg. It was also covered by privately owned Russian news agency Interfax along with a handful of German-language media outlets.

However, as of Friday lunchtime, there had been no mention of the issue by major news agencies Associated Press, Reuters or Agence France-Presse. Russia's state-run agency TASS had also declined to cover the story, as had EU news portals EurActiv and EUobserver.

The scandal also failed to earn a mention in the French (Le Monde, Le Figaro, France 24.com, Liberation), British (The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph) or Belgian (Le Soir, Niewsblad, Het Laatste News) papers.

On both Wednesday and Thursday, the main focus of international media attention was the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin and other leaders of the Wagner Group.

The scandal, which came to light following an ERR article published on Wednesday, was then reported by news agency Interfax at 8.22 p.m. that same evening. The story centers on opposition politicians demanding Kallas' resignation due to a company linked to her husband continuing to do business in Russia after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022.

On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that one of the Kremlin's toughest critics in the EU was having to to fend off accusations that her husband's company has business ties to a logistics firm, which delivers goods to a client in Russia. Bloomberg continued its coverage of the story on Thursday.

On Thursday morning, the issue was also mentioned by Politico in its daily briefing "Brussels Playbook." The outlet reported that Kallas' husband is a partner in a company that continues trading with Russia, added that the Estonian PM appeared to confirm the reports in a post on social media.

On the same day, the Financial Times (FT) cited criticism of what had happened from the leaders of Estonia's other political parties. The paper also recalled that as recently as May, Kallas had told the FT that her country's businesses must find their moral compass and refuse deals that could give Moscow access to goods, which are subject to Western sanctions.

In the German-language media, influential Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote on Thursday afternoon that Kallas is in the midst of the biggest crisis of her political career, with both the Estonian media and opposition accusing her of naivety or dishonesty.

The issue was also reported by German TV channel NTV, which is owned by commercial broadcaster RTL, and Austrian TV station Puls24, which is part of the Pro Sieben group.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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