The shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 by pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine is turning out to be a huge embarrassment for Britain’s Conservative prime minister, David Cameron.
Four different reports from various House of Commons committees have revealed that the U.K. has as many as 251 active arms sales licenses with Russia. British arms export licenses cover the type of missiles that brought down the jet, killing 298 people, mostly tourists, The Guardian noted.
At the same time, the Conservative Party has taken huge political donations from Russian interests. Mayor of London Boris Johnson — who is expected to stand as a Conservative MP in the upcoming general election — has said he may now refuse to play a game of tennis with one Russian oligarch who donated £160,000 to the party.
Cameron promised on Monday that Britain had already stopped arms sales to Russia. That turned out to not be the case. The BBC produced this graphic showing how Britain supports military interests in Russia:
Worse, Cameron chided the French for selling two warships to Russia right before the arms export reports came out. French politicians immediately called him out on that, calling him a hypocrite.
No one in Britain really cares what French politicians think. The danger here for Cameron is that the MH17 disaster and the arms exports will expose Russia’s deep financial ties to London, and the new influence of wealthy Russians on the British government. Cameron once held a secret fundraising dinner for a bunch of billionaires and Russian oligarchs who donated money to the party. One of the guests was Russian premier Vladimir Putin’s judo partner.
Russians have become so rich they’re pumping up property prices all across London. Russians are changing Britain’s cultural life, too: The London Evening Standard is now owned by a former KGB agent, and Chelsea F.C. is owned by Roman Abramovich, the billionaire who personally interviewed candidates for Putin’s first cabinet.
Rich Russians in London get special consideration from Cameron’s government, too. A Downing Street source told the Financial Times that Cameron’s government was not keen to extend economic sanctions to target individual Russians in London.
So far, no evidence has emerged that any of the arms sales are directly linked to the MH17 disaster. However, the crash is exposing the U.K. government’s closeness to rich Russian expatriates living in the U.K., in addition to the U.K.’s arms trade with Russia. The risk for Cameron is that, the more the electorate hears about these things, the less they will like it.
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