The husband of Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has connections with a firm doing business in Russia. The news is raising eyebrows given the sanctions on Moscow and the Estonian Government’s hard line against its eastern neighbour.
When Kallas was re-elected in March 2023, her success was touted by many as a great victory for a liberal “key ally” of Kyiv.
Despite the ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the transport company Stark Logistics has persisted in maintaining business ties with Russia, despite vocal criticism of it doing so.
Stark Logistics, in which Kallas’ husband Arvo Hallik’s firm Novaria Consult has shares, is engaged in transporting goods to and from Russia.
While Stark Logistics has reported a significant downturn in its operations due to reduced demand, its chief executive Kristjan Kraag acknowledged that deliveries to Russia have not ceased entirely. He insisted the company has “reoriented its activities” to focus on other regions, including the Baltics, Scandinavia and Poland.
Still, it has been transporting goods to Russia despite the country’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Neither Kraag nor the company provided details on the exact number of deliveries made during since the war started.
He maintained that the remaining deliveries primarily involve shifting leftover stock, which consist of items that are not restricted by the sanctions.
The persistence in doing business with Russia has raised questions, especially given Kallas’ stance on halting such transactions. In December 2022, she explicitly stated that there should be no business dealings between Estonia’s state-owned companies and Russia.
Estonian news outlet ERR also pointed to Kallas’ €350,000 loan to Novaria Consult, which owns the stakes in Stark Logistics. That has fuelled concerns about possible conflicts of interest.
Kallas, in response to those concerns, stated that her husband’s company is aiding an Estonian client in winding down its operations in Russia in compliance with sanctions.
Taking to Facebook she wrote that she wanted “to emphasise that my husband has no business clients from the Russian Federation.”
In keeping with her previous official stance she said that she remained “of the view that all trade and business with Russia must cease as long as the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine continues”.
While Stark Logistics’ deliveries to Russia during the crisis raise questions about business ethics and the potential for conflicts of interest, the situation underscores the complex web of economic ties that can intersect with political and ethical considerations.
As the situation in Ukraine continues to unfold, the actions of companies such as Stark Logistics remain under the microscope, with calls for greater transparency and adherence to Estonian Government directives.
The situation is also politically dangerous for Kallas; with many parties constantly shifting alliances, Estonia’s political landscape is an ever-changing one. Many joke that the country always has at least two governments within each legislative term.