In the UK, dangerous links between Russian money and politics

Posted 23 March, 2022

Massive donations, tennis games with ministers, titles of Lord... The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought to light the influence of Russian money on British politics, reviving calls to clean up party finances.

"The influence of Russian money is very important in politics and in the British Establishment (...) and has increased over the last 20 years," said businessman and activist William Browder, interviewed by the AFP.

A parliamentary report in 2020 noted that "several members of the Russian elite close to Putin have been identified among donors to charities and political organizations in the UK".

The Tories are particularly singled out, accused of complacency after Labour, according to Labor, received nearly two million pounds in donations from wealthy Russians since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in 2019.

These donors include Alexander Temerko, a former top Russian Defense Ministry official and ex-top executive of oil giant Yukos now a Kremlin critic, and Lubov Chernukhin, whose husband Vladimir served in the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin before taking over. fall out of favor.

She is described in the British press as the largest donor in the history of the Conservative Party. Since 2012 she has donated over £2 million to political training.

In particular, she made headlines for having paid tens of thousands of pounds at an auction to play tennis with David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, or with Boris Johnson, current host of Downing Street, and participated in an evening with former Prime Minister Theresa May.

Labor is also calling for the resignation of Tory co-chairman Ben Elliot, notably in charge of raising funds for the party, accusing the concierge company for the ultra-rich he co-founded, Quintessentially, of links with large Russian fortunes.




Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the life appointment in 2020 to the House of Lords of Evgeni Lebedev, a friend of Boris Johnson and son of the oligarch and ex-Russian spy Alexander Lebedev, has rekindled a lot of ink.

According to the Sunday Times, Boris Johnson attended parties at a luxury property owned by Mr. Lebedev in Italy. The latter, like Alexander Temerko and Lubov Chernukhin, spoke out against the Russian offensive in Ukraine and denies being in the pay of the Kremlin.

The Conservatives claim that all their donations are registered, legal, and come from naturalized British citizens.

They accuse Labour, for their part, of hypocrisy, accusing it of having received 1 million pounds in donations from people of Russian origin.

William Browder recalls that Labor Lord Peter Goldsmith had accepted, according to documents revealed by the press at the time, to work for a Russian concerned by sanctions.

Conservative member of the House of Lords Greg Barker has just resigned as chairman of EN+, a mining giant in which oligarch Oleg Deripaska is the main shareholder.

“It is notable that some members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia or work directly for major Russian companies linked” to the Kremlin, insisted the 2020 parliamentary report.

He also mentioned, without demonstrating it, a Russian influence on the Brexit vote then defended by Boris Johnson, who has since become Prime Minister.

"Being a Russian donor does not mean that you support Vladimir Putin, but in a country like Russia where the industry is linked to the government, you can't really become an oligarch without the support of the Kremlin," said Daniel. Weiner, director of the Brennan Center for Government and Election Studies at NYU.

Even more emphatically, William Browder believes that with Russia being "a threat to national security", past donations from Russians should be "viewed with the utmost skepticism and there should be no further donations accepted by any party from anyone connected. foreign government".

He believes that the war in Ukraine served as a trigger for the British government which seems to have accelerated its anti-dirty money measures in politics and business: "Vladimir Putin has forced everyone to realize that it is a question of survival for (our) country".

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