Dark Money Investigations: News

Tories have taken £62,000 from Russia-linked donors since war began

The donations include £50,000 from Lubov Chernukhin, who is married to Vladimir Putin’s former deputy finance minister

profile2.jpg Peter Geoghegan
Martin Williams Peter Geoghegan
9 June 2022, 12.26pm

Boris Johnson during a visit to Moscow's Red Square in December 2017 while foreign secretary

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REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

The Conservative Party has accepted tens of thousands of pounds from donors linked to Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, new filings have shown.

It includes £50,000 from Lubov Chernukhin, who is married to Vladimir Putin’s former deputy finance minister.

Reports say that her husband, Vladimir, had business dealings with oligarchs who are now under UK sanctions and earned up to £42m a year.

Her donation to the Tories came on March 4, just eight days after Russian troops entered Ukraine – and just one day after Boris Johnson pledged to step up sanctions to "starve Putin’s war machine".

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It brings Chernukhin's total donations to the Conservative Party and MPs to more than £2.2m since 2012.

The Tories have also accepted more than £30,000 from Aquind Limited since the turn of the year, including £12,500 in March, according to data released by the Electoral Commission.

Aquind is co-owned by a Russian-born oil tycoon, Viktor Fedotov, and Alexander Temerko, a Ukrainian-born former vice-president of the Russian energy giant Yukos. Temerko has donated £730,000 to the Conservatives since 2011 and has been named as a personal friend of Boris Johnson.

Aquind, which is advised by former Tory MP and now Lord James Wharton, hit the headlines in January when the government blocked the firm’s controversial project to lay a 148-mile power and communications line between England and France, through Portsmouth and Hampshire, saying alternative routes hadn’t been fully considered.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who chairs the standards and privileges committees, said the Conservatives “should be ashamed”.

He added British politicians were giving the world the impression that they were “craven, greedy, and impotent”.

Russian money

The Conservatives have faced mounting criticism about their reliance on funding from Russian-linked donors in recent months.

Much of the attention has focused on Lubov Chernukhin. As one of the Conservative party’s biggest donors, she has met a host of senior ministers.

In 2014, she donated £160,000 to play tennis with Boris Johnson, who was the mayor of London at the time.

And five years later, she stumped up £135,000 to attend a dinner with Theresa May, the then prime minister. Also at the dinner was Liz Truss, who is now the foreign secretary – with responsibility for dishing out sanctions against Russian oligarchs.

So far this year, Chernukhin has donated £60,500 to the Conservatives.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly has previously defended donations by Chernukhin, saying: “She has every right to donate to us or any other political party.”

Last month it emerged that a major Tory donor was suspected of funnelling hundreds of thousands of pounds to the party from a Russian bank account.

Former party treasurer Ehud Sheleg was named in an alert by the National Crime Agency alleging that the money had ultimately come from his father-in-law Sergei Kopytov, a business owner in Crimea and Russia. Sheleg’s lawyer told the New York Times that Sheleg had not depended on money from his father-in-law to make the donation.

Ahead of the 2019 general election, openDemocracy revealed that the Conservatives had received significant donations from Russia-linked individuals and companies despite previously pledging to distance themselves from Russian funding.

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