- Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party accepted £200,000 from the wife of a former finance minister under Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- The donation came as Johnson blocked a report about possible Russian interference in recent UK elections.
- Lubov Chernukhin previously paid for a tennis match with Johnson and a night out with former Prime Minister Theresa May.
- Johnson has refused to publish the report until after voters go to the polls next month.
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Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party election campaign received a six-figure donation from the wife of a former finance minister and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The prime minister’s party received £5.7 million in donations in the first week of the campaign, mostly from senior business figures and hedge funds, more than 25 times the amount raised by the opposition Labour Party.
One of the largest single donors was Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of the Russian oligarch Vladimir Chernukhin. She donated £200,000 to the Conservative campaign.
Chernukhin previously paid £160,000 for a tennis match with Johnson and £135,000 for a night out with former Prime Minister Theresa May.
The donation came as Johnson refused to publish a report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee about potential Russian interference in recent UK elections.
The committee looked into donations from nine Russian sources, according to a report by The Sunday Times.
Johnson blocked the report, which was set to be published before the election campaign, because of fears that the information would damage his chance of winning the UK general election next month, sources told The Times.
Among those donors named in the report is Alexander Temerko, who worked for the Russian defence ministry and has previously boasted that the prime minister is his “friend,” The Sunday Times said. Temerko has donated more than £1.2 million to the Conservatives in seven years, according to the report.
The committee also reportedly heard concerns about Alexander Lebedev, a former Russian spy who owns the Evening Standard and Independent newspapers.
Lebedev is not a Conservative Party donor, but his son, Evgeny, is a close friend of the prime minister and repeatedly hosted him for parties at his castle in Perugia, Italy, while Johnson was the mayor of London and the foreign secretary. Concerns were raised about Johnson’s decision to attend the events, where guests have said that “nothing is off the menu from the moment you are greeted to the moment you leave.”
Some have expressed fears that Johnson’s private life may make him a security risk because he could be blackmailed, The Sunday Times reported earlier this year.
“There’s the danger that people leak what they have over him or blackmail him with it,” a Cabinet minister in May’s government told The Sunday Times.
Sources who have seen the report told The Times they think it was suppressed because it highlights extensive connections between Conservative donors and Russia’s domestic-security agency.
“What makes it interesting is just how close some of these people are to the FSB are or have been,” one source told the paper.
An OpenDemocracy investigation published this month found that the Conservative Party received at least £498,850, or about $US642,000, from Russian business executives and their associates from November 2018 to last month. This was a significant increase from the previous year, when such donations amounted to less than £350,000.
The increase came despite increased pressure on the party to cut its ties to Russian oligarchs since the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury last year.
Johnson’s chief strategist, Dominic Cummings, has been under the spotlight since The Sunday Times early this month reported on a whistleblower raising “serious concerns” about Cummings’ time in Russia in the 1990s.
UK authorities have reportedly restricted Cummings’ access to intelligence, despite his senior position. Labour MP Ben Bradshaw told The Sydney Morning Herald that this was a concern for Britain’s security relations with other countries.
“If I we’re one of the UK’s Five Eyes allies I would be extremely concerned about this unprecedented arrangement,” Bradshaw said.
“Boris Johnson’s chief of staff, whose account of his time in Russia is apparently full of gaps and inaccuracies, is granted inexplicably the highest level of security clearance yet is not given full access to secret intelligence.”
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