Estonian PM scandal increasingly picked up by foreign media into weekend

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) addressing the international press at the European Council. June 2023.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) addressing the international press at the European Council. June 2023. Source: Stenbock House

While international media coverage was initially more limited, going into the weekend, more and more foreign news outlets picked up the scandal surrounding Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) in connection with a company with continued business interests in Russia part-owned by her husband Arvo Hallik.

Last Wednesday, ERR first reported that Stark Logistics, a transport company partly owned by Hallik, the Estonian prime minister's husband, has continued doing business in Russia since the latter launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 — and despite government criticism of companies that have done so.

By 8:22 p.m. that same day, the scandal was reported by Russian news agency Interfax. On Thursday, it received brief coverage by Politico, but also made front-page news in the U.K.'s Financial Times (FT), garnered two stories in U.S. business daily Bloomberg as well as coverage in a handful of German-language media outlets.

As of Thursday night going into Friday, major news agencies including Associated Press (AP), Reuters and Agence France-Presse had yet to pick up the story, while Russia's state-run agency TASS as well as EU news portals EurActive and EUobserver had declined to cover it. The scandal had also failed to garner a mention in French (Le Monde, Le Figaro,, Liberation), British (The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph) or Belgian (Le Soir, Niewsblad, Het Laatste News) papers.

This began to change heading into the weekend, however, with the AP publishing an overview of the scandal on Friday afternoon, reporting that opposition politicians urged Estonia's "strongly pro-Ukrainian prime minister" to resign but noting that members of the ruling Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition have been calling for more answers regarding Hallik's activities.

The news agency's coverage also included info about Kallas' loan to Hallik, but also noted that according to the Estonian Internal Security Service, companies connected to the prime minister's husband have not violated sanctions.

Meanwhile, news agency Reuters provided a timeline of events on Friday, starting with when ERR ran the story on Hallik's business activity Wednesday.

The agency reported that two major Estonian papers' editorials had called for Kallas to resign, and cited opinion polls covered by ERR in which over half of respondents believed the prime minister should step down. It also noted that Hallik had promised to cut ties with Stark Logstics.

Euronews likewise picked up the story Friday, citing ERR and highlighting that the opposition, daily papers and the people alike were in favor of Kallas' resignation.

The Telegraph also noted that Kallas has been called a hypocrite after she herself has urged Estonian businesses to cut all but essential ties with Russia.

German online news outlet Der Spiegel wrote that Kallas is considered in Europe to be one of Ukraine's most staunch supporters in Russia's war against it, but that the public, led by Estonia's daily papers, expect her to resign as prime minister. The portal also mentioned that the opposition intends to initiate a no-confidence motion against Kallas.

Frankfurt daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) described the scandal's sequence of events, likewise highlighting opposition politicians' calls for Kallas to step down and the opposition Center Party's plan to launch a no-confidence motion against the prime minister.

Another German daily, Die Welt, highlighted in its own coverage of the scandal that Kallas has been one of Russia's harshest critics, as well as the fact that she has been considered a potential candidate for the next NATO secretary general.

Others who have since reported on the scandal included the U.S.' Bloomberg and Politico, the U.K.'s Financial Times, Germany's Berliner Zeitung and N-TV, France's Le Figaro and TF1 as well as Swiss dailies Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Le Temps.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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