MARGUS HANNO MURAKAS Prime minister ignores uncomfortable inquiries, but incites the press to investigate

Margus Hanno Murakas
, data analyst
Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas.
Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas. Photo: Matti Kämärä / Põhjarannik

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' call on the radio last week for journalists to do more to investigate businessman Oleg Ossinovski's haulage business with the east and his donations to the prime minister's own coalition partners is hypocritical to the core. The prime minister, who has repeatedly ignored uncomfortable inquiries and labeled journalists as jackals, is now attempting to herd the press herself, Margus Hanno Murakas writes.

The most curious thing about the prime minister's call was that less than a month ago, I personally sent questions to Kaja Kalas concerning the activities of Oleg Ossinovski. Unfortunately, no replies came from Kallas.

When Kallas' eastward haulage scandal broke at the end of August last year, my colleagues and I investigated it as thoroughly as the public data would allow: we dug into Russian customs declarations to find out what Metaprint was taking across the border and whether anything was coming back from Russia. It turned out that a «legally all correct» solution had been found to supply a factory despite the sanctions, and semi-finished can blanks were sent to Russia.

We tried to figure out, on the basis of the prime minister's own declarations of financial interests, where it was possible for her to find 350,000 euros in liquidity to lend to her husband – although the declarations for the last three years did not show that any assets had been sold. Among other things, Õhtuleht found that the prime minister, an experienced lawyer, had herself broken the law when submitting a declaration.

Finally, we were also able to find out who was the woman with whom Kaja Kallas and Arvo Hallik met at the Town Hall at the height of the scandal – it was Hallik's classmate, who, after working in Russian banks, is now brokering metal transactions in Switzerland.

These serious questions are still unanswered. The whole scandal strongly shaped last year's political landscape, as evidenced by the Bonnier Prize awarded to colleagues from other media houses.

Six months later, there are still numerous questions hanging in the air, which I have summed up in an article in Postimees titled «Kaja Kallas and Stark Logistics left questions in the air regarding the eastward haulage scandal.» Both the prime minister and Stark Logistics have ignored repeated inquiries. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the prime minister refused to disclose her previous declarations of economic interests, income tax returns, and the loan agreement with her husband's company to the public to restore trust and demonstrate that everything was legal and ethical.

These serious questions are still unanswered. The whole scandal strongly shaped last year's political landscape, as evidenced by the Bonnier Prize awarded to colleagues from other media houses.

Ossinovski's businesses in Russia

An article in Eesti Express at the end of January about the Ossinovski family's railway business prompted me to do a follow-up story («A masterclass in obfuscation: when did Ossinovski sell his Russian company?») and to search for the answer to the question of when Oleg Ossinovski in fact registered his Russian company in his sister's name – much confusion was caused by the vaguely worded and ambiguous announcement that Ossinovski's holding group sent to the media. Here too, as far as public data, such as Estonian and Russian business registers and annual reports, as well as Russian customs declarations, allowed the matter to be elucidated, it was.

It is worth remembering that during the prime minister's eastward haulage scandal, it was Oleg Ossinovski who defended her by saying in an interview with Postimees on August 28, 2023 that in his opinion, the business activities of her husband were not and should not be a problem for the prime minister of Estonia. On the contrary, Ossinovski said that only people who know nothing about economics could say that the money earned by Stark Logistics supports Vladimir Putin's regime. «The situation is exactly the opposite. Every euro that Estonian companies take out of Russia weakens the Russian economy.»

This prompted me to send inquiries to both the prime minister and her husband – to get to know if they have had any business or personal contacts with Skinest Group or Oleg Ossinovski. In order to understand, among other things, what caused Ossinovski's unexpected defense speech in favor of Kaja Kallas and Arvo Hallik on August 28, 2023. Or whether Stark Logistics has transported any raw materials from Russia to Estonia. The prime minister again ignored the inquiry and her husband declined to give a substantive response to the inquiry on the grounds that he is not a public figure.

The prime minister's accusations that the media has not investigated the Ossinovski issue are therefore untrue. In addition, the prime minister failed to mention that she personally ignored inquiries from me regarding certain aspects of Ossinovski's activities. In a democratic rule of law, the media has the right to ask questions to the prime minister and receive answers, not obfuscation. This is a matter of the credibility of political power.