Kaja Kallas to BBC: Of course I have thought about stepping down

Kaja Kallas.
Kaja Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told the BBC in an interview that she has thought about resigning over her husband's Russia transports scandal, while she repeated the same points she has previously told the Estonian media.

"Of course I have thought about it," Kallas said when asked by host Stephen Sackur whether she has considered resigning. "But I've been talking with different people, and I couldn't really defend myself if I stepped down, it would stick with me. I have done nothing wrong. My stance is exactly the same as it was before, and my husband selling his shareholding when this thing came out is proof of that," the Estonian leader added during the interview that aired in the UK on Monday.

Kallas said that her husband does not have, nor has had in the past, Russian ties. "What he did, he had a minority shareholding in a company that helped an Estonian company to end its business in Russia," she said. "Not trading in Russia, [but] helping another Estonian company," she stressed.

"But when I learned about it, of course it was embarrassing, and when we talked about it, the help for the other Estonian company ended," Kallas said.

The prime minister denied she was aware where her husband invested money she had lent him. "I gave a loan to another finance investment company. That was another business, because my husband was an investment banker."

Kallas also had an answer when the host pointed out that many Estonians find it unlikely she had no idea of her husband's business ties.

"I'm not an actor. I wouldn't be such an ardent supporter of Ukraine and saying to our companies that you must find your moral compass to end any ties with Russia if I had known my own husband was helping an Estonian company in Russia. I couldn't have done that.

Asked whether she was angry with her husband after finding out, Kallas' reply was, "Of course!"

"The next day, they declared that they will end the business, and on the Friday following that Wednesday (when the matter became public – ERR) he sold his business. And now I have a husband at home who every day feels guilty about these things. But he is not a politician, so he did not see the harm in helping that Estonian company. What he said to me is that it was important for them not to fuel the Russian war machine, leave a single euro, dollar, pound or ruble in Russia or in the hands of Russian companies," Kallas said.

When Sacker pointed out that the opposition has urged Kallas to resign, the president has rebuked her and that 69 percent of Estonians also feel she should step down, Kallas said it was politics.

"If you turn this around. If you look at polls that ask who people want to see as prime minister, support for me has always been around 30 percent. It has not changed much, has it?" Kallas replied.

The lion's share of the BBC HardTalk interview with Kaja Kallas concentrated on the Ukraine war and Estonia's place in it.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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