More evidence of oligarchs funding Tories follows claim of a Brexit-inspired ‘coup’

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The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report on Russian interference in British elections and funding of Tories remains unpublished. This follows further details of funding of Tories by British-based oligarchs. There was even an allegation that one such oligarch may have played a part in a Tory ‘coup’.

The ISC dossier

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw requested that the ISC look into:

activities and funding of political organisations such as Conservative Friends of Russia, now renamed as the Westminster Russia Forum.

This followed an investigation that claimed the Kremlin had targeted leading Tories. It also followed a report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on Disinformation and Fake News.

UK prime minister Johnson received the completed report on 17 October, but has refused to publish it.

Labour shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry commented:

We are bound to ask what is Downing Street so worried about. They realise that this report will lead to other questions about the links between Russia and Brexit and the current leadership of the Tory party, which risks derailing their election campaign.

Questionable

CNN claims it has seen leaked testimonies that contributed to the ISC dossier. Based on those testimonies, it concludes that Russia established deep ties to the UK political scene. Specifically, one witness described the development as “potentially the most significant threat to the UK’s institutions and its ways of life”.

According to CNN, testimony included input from Chris Donnelly of the Institute for Statecraft (IfS). The Canary previously reported on the IfS-sponsored Integrity Initiative, which is funded by the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) and NATO. Integrity specialises in countering what it regards as Russian disinformation via a number of covert operations in Europe and elsewhere.

As well as representatives of the Royal United Services Institute, the Henry Jackson Society, the Atlantic Council, and Chatham House, leaked Integrity documents listed Orbis – the private intelligence agency headed by ‘Trump dossier’ author Christopher Steele – in its contacts.

Steele, who was an MI6 agent and head of the Russia desk, authored a dossier into alleged collusion between Russia and US president Donald Trump, and is also one of the contributors to the ISC dossier.

Coup?

Then, there was an assertion by Reuters that a “senior Conservative Party member” claimed Ukrainian born oligarch Alexander Temerko was “very much behind the attempt to oust” Theresa May as prime minister.

In short, Reuters suggested there was a coup led by “Temerko’s allies” who “are at the helm of Johnson’s campaign”. This reportedly included former defence secretary Gavin Williamson, political strategist Sir Lynton Crosby and “a group of East European businessmen”. However, this assertion is uncorroborated.

Temerko, incidentally, reportedly made his fortune in Russia in the sale of arms to the (Russia) Defence. He is known to be a good friend of Johnson, and it’s claimed he financed the Conservative Party by more than £1m.

Media role

Meanwhile, mainstream and alternative media have provided further details on oligarchs who fund Tories.

Lubov Chernukhin paid £160,000 for a game of tennis with Johnson and former prime minister David Cameron. She also paid £30,000 for dinner with Williamson. According to openDemocracy, she donated more than “£450,000 to the Conservatives over the last year”. Her husband was a Russian government finance minister.

According to the BBC, other Russian donors to the Conservatives include Russian banker George Piskov (donated £17,378, as well as a £10,000 donation to party headquarters) and Alexander Knaster (£400,000 to the Conservatives since 2010).

Altogether, openDemocracy claims that Tories received more than £3.5m from Russian funders since 2010. It lists New Century Media (a PR firm financed by the Kremlin) and Russian investment banker Lev Mikheev among the backers.

There’s more

Johnson’s chief of staff Dominic Cummings’ brother-in-law Jack Wakefield was a director of the Firtash Foundation, named after Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian businessman. Firtash reportedly funded associates of Rudy Giuliani caught up in the Trump-Ukraine scandal and faces extradition to the US. Thornberry claims that Cummings has links with ‘Kremlin ideologist’ Vladislav Surkov.

Johnson is also known to have attended so-called ‘bunga-bunga’ parties at the luxury Italian villa belonging to Russian oligarch Evgeny Lebedev, the son of a KGB officer. Johnson reportedly visited the villa four times and flew there via Lebedev’s private jet.

Embassy intervention

Russian Embassy senior diplomat Sergey Nalobin arranged the launch of the Conservative Friends of Russia (later renamed the Westminster Russia Forum). Nalobin, whose father worked for the KGB and brother for its successor, was subsequently  ‘expelled‘ from the UK.

The Guardian later claimed that Nalobin targeted Matthew Elliott, who later joined Paul Staines (aka ‘Guido Fawkes’) and others to develop a UK voter database. Elliott then went on to head Vote Leave (fronted by Johnson and Michael Gove) and Brexit Central.

Dark money

Given the amount of information published by the media, it’s no wonder there is disquiet.

Indeed, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw told openDemocracy:

Now we know one of the reasons Boris Johnson is suppressing the official report into Kremlin penetration of our democracy. It’s because of the substantial and growing links between Russian money and the Tory Party.

Even a former head of MI5 condemned the suppression of the dossier:

However, on oligarch funding, a Conservative Party spokesperson responded:

The individuals you have mentioned have lived in Britain for many years and are British citizens, which gives them the democratic right to donate to a political party. We won’t take any lectures from the Labour party, whose leader sided with Putin over the Salisbury attacks.

But questions remain unanswered, and will remain that way until the ISC dossier is published.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

from https://www.thecanary.co/uk/analysis/2019/11/09/more-evidence-of-oligarchs-funding-tories-follows-claim-of-a-brexit-inspired-coup/

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