Kallas: ISS hasn't discussed my husband's business with me in any context

Kaja Kallas talking to ERR at the Riigikogu, August 28, 2023.
Kaja Kallas talking to ERR at the Riigikogu, August 28, 2023. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told Delfi journalist Vilja Kiisler in an interview that the ISS subjected her husband to a full security check. The PM also said that the security service has not discussed her husband's business activity with her in any context.

"I understand that I'm being accused of hypocrisy, while I really have been honest and talked about the aspects of which I have been aware. /.../ My moral attitudes have not changed," Kallas told Delfi in an interview.

The premier said that the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) carried out a full security check on her husband Arvo Hallik, which is enough for Kallas' European colleagues. "It works to remove doubts as to whether he might have business ties in Russia; he has not done business in Russia and is not active there now. It is enough for them," Kallas said.

She said that the scandal took her by surprise, and that Arvo Hallik sold his stake in Stark Logistics that hauled goods to Russia because it looked bad.

The PM revealed that Hallik told her that he had been approached by a journalist on August 20. (ERR sent Hallik the questions on August 18 – ed.). "He told me that I shouldn't worry, that he has done nothing wrong, and the company wrapped up its activities a month after the war started. And I didn't worry."

Kallas admitted that the interview she gave to ERR's Madis Hindre was extremely unfortunate. "It was extremely emotional as this matter concerns my family. However, I provided answers at the press conference the next day," she said.

The prime minister also said that the ISS has not warned her of potential problems arising from her husband's business activities, and it did not come up when Kallas renewed her state secrets clearance.

Kallas said that the only time the security service asked her a few follow-up questions was after Arvo Hallik voluntarily submitted himself for a security check.

When Kiisler suggested she has been told the ISS has discussed the matter with Kallas, she repeated her position. "It has not come up in any context."

The interviewer also asked Kallas about claims she suggested at a Reform Party board meeting that the scandal constituted payback from the press for the decision to hike the VAT rate on periodicals. "I have said it, because such threats were made in spring. These things may be connected. I suppose I did say that."

"Allegedly, you have claimed that a journalism executive has threatened you in connection with this scandal. Who was it?" Kiisler asked.

Kallas refused to answer, saying that she has no way to prove the claim, is not popular in journalistic circles and lacks the network of contacts her opponents have. She added that female politicians in Estonia have not developed contacts in journalism on par with their male colleagues.

The prime minister said Friday that she plans to run for Reform chairman again at its November general assembly.

Asked whether she is willing to continue as prime minister in a situation where her moral credit is zero, Kallas said that her moral credit has not changed in any way. "I understand that people are disappointed, which is why I'm trying to provide answers. I hoped that if the ISS carried out a security check on my husband, it would prove he has not done the things he is being accused of. My husband cannot be held responsible for his business partners' actions," Kallas said.

She said that she will not resign because one can only resign over something one has done or been aware of. "In this case, I was not aware of these things, and once I became aware, my husband gave it all up."

"I recently met with representatives of Estonia's allies, and a person active in politics told me that if I resigned, I would not longer be able to defend myself. That no one would care what I had to say once I did. We need to put together the state budget, which is in a very difficult situation. It is not sensible to leave the country without a government at a time like this. The prime minister's resignation means the resignation of the entire government. It is not simply a case of replacing one Reform member with another. It would necessitate new coalition talks," the prime minister remarked.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

Source: Delfi

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