COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Estonia’s strongly pro-Ukrainian Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas, came under increasing pressure Friday to resign, after Estonian media revealed her husband’s role in a company that indirectly did business in Russia after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.
Kallas, 46, one of Europe’s most outspoken supporters of Ukraine, had urged all EU companies to stop doing business with Russia after the war in Ukraine began in February 2022.
Her husband, Arvo Hallik, said Friday he would sell his 25% stake in Stark Logistics, a trucking company that worked with an Estonian company involved in Russia. He also said he would resign as the company’s chief financial officer and step down from the board.
The opposition has urged Kallas to resign, while members of the center-right, three-party coalition government have been calling for more answers regarding Hallik's activities.
“We believed that we were doing the right thing, helping the right people and saving a good Estonian company, otherwise we could not have done it,” Hallik wrote in a statement, relayed by Estonian public broadcaster ERR. Hallik insisted his wife "was not aware of my business activities.”
Stark Logistics, a trucking company, has continued to work with a company that operated in Russia.
However, KAPO, the Estonian internal security service, confirmed to ERR that companies related to the prime minister's husband had not violated sanctions.
Hallik defended his wife's loan of 350,000 euros ($377,000) to his holding company, which owns the stake in Stark.
“My company used this and the remaining capital to make various financial investments -– but the substance of these investments has never been the subject of any discussion between us. During the summer the loan was repaid," he said.
According to ERR, Hallik insisted that he has always acted within the law during his 13 years with the company.
The opposition Center Party group, traditionally favored by Estonia’s sizable ethnic-Russian minority, was considering a no-confidence motion against Kallas, the Baltic News Service reported.
Party chairman Tanel Kiik said the ”scandal has severely damaged the reputation of the Estonian state,” according to BNS.
President Alar Karis, whose Social Democrats are the junior partner in the coalition, also urged her to explain the situation.
Kallas, who leads the pro-business, center-right Reform Party, became Estonia's prime minister in January 2021. She won reelection in March with more than 31% of the vote, her standing enhanced by her international appeals to impose sanctions on Moscow.
Estonia, which shares a 300-kilometer border with Russia, endured five decades of occupation by the Soviet Union and has been a strong advocate within the EU for sanctions on Russia.