- The wife of a former close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin has paid £90,000 for a game of tennis with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
- Lubov Chernukhin, who is the wife of the former Russian Finance Minister Vladimir Chernukhin, was the winning bidder in a fundraising auction held by Johnson’s Conservative party.
- She has previously paid for meetings with other senior Conservative figures.
- The donation comes as Johnson continues to delay publication of a parliamentary report detailing extensive links between his party and donors with links to Russia.
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The wife of a former close ally to Vladimir Putin has paid £90,000 for a game of tennis with Boris Johnson, as the UK prime minister continues to delay publication of an official report detailing the Conservative Party’s links to Russian donors.
Lubov Chernukhin, who is the wife of the former Russian Finance Minister Vladimir Chernukhin, was the winning bidder in an auction held by the party at their annual Black and White fundraising ball on Thursday evening.
Johnson initially presided over the bidding himself before abandoning it halfway through, The Sun newspaper reported.
Chernukhin has previously donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative party, including £200,000 during last year’s general election campaign.
She also previously paid £160,000 for a tennis match with Johnson and £135,000 for a night out with former Prime Minister Theresa May.
Chernukhin is a UK citizen and resident in London. A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “All donations will be declared properly and transparently to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law.”
The latest donation comes as Johnson continues to resist publishing a report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee about potential Russian interference in recent UK elections.
The committee’s report, which was due before the general election, but was blocked by Downing Street, reportedly looked into donations from nine sources with links to Russia.
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 Times said. Temerko has donated more than £1.2 million to the Conservatives in seven years, according to the report.
The Prime Minister has insisted the report will be published once Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee re-establishes itself in the coming months.
Boris Johnson’s Russian links come under scrutiny
The parliamentary 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 paper.
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 before the election 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 October 2019. 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 reported last year on a whistleblower raising “serious concerns” about Cummings’ time in Russia in the 1990s.
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