- New details emerge of Conservative party donors with ties to the Kremlin.
- 14 ministers in Boris Johnson’s government and two MPs on the Intelligence & Security committee received donations from individuals and companies linked to Russia
- Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of a former minister in Putin’s government, and energy firm chief Alexander Temerko have donated thousands of pounds to Conservative MPs.
- A highly-anticipated report this week accused successive UK governments of failing to shield Britain from Russian influence.
- The report said Russian influence at the highest levels of society was “the new normal.”
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An array of new links between Boris Johnson’s Conservative party and donors with ties to the Kremlin have emerged on the same week that a major report accused the UK government of failing to provide Britain sufficient protection from Russian influence.
Six members of Prime Minister Johnson’s Cabinet including Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma, as well as eight junior ministers, have received donations either personally or through their constituency parties from individuals or companies linked to Russia.
Senior Conservative members of Parliament Theresa Villiers and Mark Pritchard, who both sit on the Intelligence & Security Committee which this week published the long-awaited report into Russian interference, have received from the same sources, The Times of London reports.
Villiers’ constituency party in Chipping Barnet, north London received £2,000 from Lubov Chernukhin in October, the newspaper reports.
Chernukhin, who is married to Vladimir Chernukhin, who served as a finance minister in Vladimir Putin's Russian government, is the biggest female donor in UK political history.
In 2014, she paid £160,000 for a game of tennis with Johnson and then-prime minister David Cameron, as well as a further £30,000 for dinner with the UK government's current education secretary, Gavin Williamson. In May last year, Chernukhin dined with ex-prime minister Theresa May and numerous female members of the Cabinet at the time, after donating £135,000 to a Conservative Party fundraising event.
Pritchard's constituency party in Shropshire, the Midlands received £5,000 from energy firm Aquind. The firm's director, Alexander Temerko, previously had several senior positions in the Russian defence ministry.
Both Villiers and Pritchard accepted the money before becoming members of the Intelligence & Security Committee.
Temerko, Aquind, and other businesses he is involved in have made donations to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Business Secretary Alok Sharma, and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, either personally or to their constituency parties.
Russian influence in highest levels of UK society is 'the new normal'
The details come in the same week that the highly-anticipated report into Russian interference accused successive UK governments of failing to protect Britain from Russian influence.
The report painted a picture of how Russia has integrated itself into British social, business and political elites over a number of years, while taking advantage of UK government policy to launder Russian money and influence.
Using evidence submitted by spies and intelligence experts, the report found that government policy had "offered ideal mechanisms by which illicit finance could be recycled through what has been referred to as the London 'laundromat'."
It added that "the UK welcomed Russian money, and few questions - if any - were asked about the provenance of this considerable wealth."
While the report did not name donors, it warned that senior Russian figures had used their money to fund British political parties and businesses, with the UK "viewed as a particularly favourable destination for Russian oligarchs and their money."
Russian influence across the top levels of British society has now become "the new normal," the report said, adding that "there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth."
The report and its authors also accused the Conservative government of deciding not to look for evidence of potential Russian interference into the 2016 Brexit referendum.
The report states that the UK government did not seek to find out about potential Russian influence, citing "extreme caution" among UK security officials to look into potential interference by Moscow.
ISC member and MP Stewart Hosie on Tuesday said there had been "no assessment of Russian interference in the EU referendum and that goes back to nobody wanting to touch this issue with a ten-foot pole." He said the ISC found it "astonishing" that the UK government didn't seek to "protect the referendum" by looking into potential interference.