Russia will not intimidate me, Estonia’s Kallas says

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MUNICH (Reuters) – Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on Sunday dismissed a warrant issued by Russia for her arrest, saying it was just an attempt to intimidate her amid speculation she could get a top European Union post.

Once ruled by Moscow but now a member of both the European Union and NATO, Estonia has been a supporter of Kyiv and Kallas has been one of Moscow’s most vocal critics since the Russian invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.

Russian police placed her and several other Baltic politicians on a wanted list on Feb. 13 for destroying Soviet-era monuments.

“It is meant to intimidate and make me refrain from the decisions that I would otherwise make,” Kallas told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

“But it’s Russia’s playbook. It’s nothing surprising and we are not afraid.”

The Baltic politicians risk being arrested only if they cross the Russian border, otherwise declaring them wanted has no real consequences.

Kallas’s high profile in pushing the EU to do more to support Ukraine has led to speculation in Brussels that she could take on a senior role after the next EU parliamentary elections in June, possibly as foreign policy chief.

She said that speculation was also contributing to Russia’s aggression towards her.

“It’s hard to be popular,” she said ironically. “The Russians have also seen that, and that’s why they issued the arrest warrant to really emphasise the biggest argument against me, that I am a provocation to Russia.

When asked whether she was interested in any future European role she said: “We are not there yet. I’m the prime minister of Estonia.”

MUNITIONS AND BONDS

Estonia last year initiated talks to boost European munitions’ supplies to Ukraine that led to the 27 EU members agreeing to send Kyiv 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition by March this year.

The bloc is expected to only meet half the target.

“What it revealed was that we don’t have enough, we don’t produce enough, and we are not fast enough,” she said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged allies at the global security conference on Saturday to plug a shortage of weapons that is giving Russian forces the upper hand on the battlefield.

Czech President Petr Pavel said his country had identified hundreds of thousands of rounds that could be sourced from outside the bloc quickly, but needed funding to do it.

It is unclear how much support there would be among other EU members for such a move, which could be complicated by export licences and a reluctance among some to buy outside Europe.

“It is definitely a viable option. We all have to realise that we have to do everything to stop the aggressor there,” Kallas said.

“What we learned from 1930s is that the price will be higher for everybody with every hesitation, with every delay.”

Kallas has also floated the idea of special EU bonds to help fund higher defence spending, a proposal that would need to convince those traditionally sceptical of EU joint borrowing such as Germany, the Netherlands and Nordic nations.

“I know what the counter argument is of some countries that are really against this type of approach, but then I ask: What is the alternative?” she said, adding that a concrete proposal still needed to be put together.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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