Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas expressed confidence that she has her coalition’s backing to stay in power as she shrugs off calls to step down over revelations about her husband’s business activity in Russia.
(Bloomberg) — Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas expressed confidence that she has her coalition’s backing to stay in power as she shrugs off calls to step down over revelations about her husband’s business activity in Russia.
Opposition parties have pledged to push through a parliamentary confidence vote to topple her after it emerged that a trucking company partly owned by her husband, Stark Logistics AS, was making deliveries to a client in Russia even after Kallas’s calls to cut off all business ties with the country.
While she’s faced criticism and demands to explain the deliveries from within her center-right Reform party and from her two coalition partners, nobody within the alliance has joined the calls for her to quit the premiership.
“Right now I am sure,” Kallas told Bloomberg News on Thursday in response to whether she would survive a confidence vote, which hasn’t been scheduled. “This has been confirmed by my coalition partners.”
The fallout from the revelations is a setback for a leader who’s gained a reputation as one of the European Union’s most hawkish voices against Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Kallas has been tipped as a potential successor to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg or for high office within the EU.
A flash survey last week showed that 69% of respondents wanted her to resign. A clutch of some 50 demonstrators tied to the far-right EKRE party came out in the rain to stage a protest in front of the government building in Tallinn on Thursday, chanting “shame.”
Kallas repeated that she was unaware of her husband’s business activities. Her spouse, Arvo Hallik, announced Friday that he would sell his 24% stake in the business — and defended Kallas’s €350,000 ($380,000) loan to one of his companies, which he said he paid back in installments this year.
“I did not know anything about this activity — I have not been connected to this activity,” Kallas said, adding that she hadn’t considered stepping down.
The premier has agreed to appear in front of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee on Monday.
Throughout the turmoil, Kallas has reinforced her position that Russia should be isolated economically. But she ruled out a unilateral cutoff, saying such a move would put local companies at a disadvantage with respect to peers in the Baltic region, Finland and Poland.
“We have called on all businesses to end their activity for as long as the war continues,” Kallas said. “Everything that falls outside of sanctions is a question of moral judgment.”
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