Politics

Estonian PM talks vaccine passports and Russian aggression

Estonia's prime minister discussed Russian military threats and Estonia’s nationwide vaccine passport initiative with Power & Politics.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas says she is worried about Russia’s recent actions in the region.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas speaks during a news conference in Tallinn, Estonia on March 5, 2019. (REUTERS)

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas says she is concerned about Russia's recent actions in the region.

Russia recently threw its support behind Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who is facing international condemnation over the detention of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich.

"Russia only goes as far as we let them," Kallas told CBC News Network's Power & Politics in an exclusive Canadian interview. 

"So this is clearly a sign that we have maybe let them go too far."

The 26-year-old Protasevich was pulled off a passenger plane that was forced to land by military jets in Minsk last month.

His arrest has prompted the European Union and other countries like Canada and the U.S. to sanction Belarus. 

Russia also has continued its military buildup around its borders. The Russian military says it will create 20 new army units to counter what it calls NATO aggression.

Asked if Moscow's recent moves were justified, Prime Minister Kallas said NATO has done nothing to prompt Russia's military buildup. 

"NATO hasn't made any moves, whereas Russia has made moves," she said. "If you look at Ukraine, in Crimea, if you look at Georgia, then Russia has made their moves there." 

NATO is currently performing a massive military exercise that aims to test its ability to send troops and military equipment from North America to European ports.

Kallas said she is hoping the upcoming NATO summit this month in Brussels will tackle ongoing issues in the region, including Russia's military aggression. 

"I think the discussions going on there by going back to the basics is how to really make us all stronger," she said. 

Kallas and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are expected to attend the NATO summit starting June 14 in Brussels.

Vaccine passports

The NATO summit is just part of Trudeau's first international trip since the pandemic began; he's also expected to attend the G7 summit in the United Kingdom.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he hopes G7 leaders can reach a deal on vaccine passports during the meetings. 

Estonia has been at the forefront of the push for proof-of-vaccination certificates.

Prime Minister Kallas said Estonia's VaccineGuard program will act like a boarding pass that provides an individual's vaccination status.

"Basically it's a QR code and it shows whether it's green or red, and it also shows whether you're vaccinated or you have a negative test or if you have had the illness," Kallas told Power & Politics.

Trudeau said he has started a conversation with international partners about proof of vaccine credentials. 

With files from the CBC's Murray Brewster, Peter Zimonjic and the Associated Press.

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