“All donations to the Conservative Party are from people on the electoral register in Britain, those donations are properly declared.” So that’s OK then? – Owl
A Russian Conservative donor previously married to one of Vladimir Putin’s ministers gave the party another £80,000 in the last quarter, the latest figures have revealed.
The party accepted £80,250 from ex-Russian banker Lubov Chernukhin in the last three months of 2021, according to figures released by the Electoral Commission today.
A British and Russian citizen, she was married to Vladimir Chernukhin, who was a deputy finance minister under Mr Putin and was chairman of Russian state development corporation VEB.RF, which has been placed under sanctions by the UK this week.
Mrs Chernukhin has donated around £2m to the Conservatives since 2012.
Tory Party criticised for Russian donations
The Conservative Party has been criticised for accepting donations from people with links to Russia as further sanctions have been placed on individuals and companies directly involved with Mr Putin after he invaded Ukraine last Thursday.
Asked last week if any Russia-linked money should be handed back by the Tories, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News: “All donations to the Conservative Party are from people on the electoral register in Britain, those donations are properly declared.”
Lubov Chernukhin’s meetings with prime ministers
In 2018, the Conservative Party was criticised for accepting £50,000 from Mrs Chernukhin on the same day then-PM Theresa May said it was “highly likely” Russia was behind the Salisbury spy poisonings.
And in 2014, Mrs Chernukhin paid £160,000 at an auction for the chance to play tennis with then-PM David Cameron and Boris Johnson, who was London mayor at the time.
In 2019, she had dinner with Mrs May and six of her Cabinet ministers after donating £135,000 at a Conservative fundraiser.
Image: Vladimir Chernukhin was Vladimir Putin’s deputy finance minister from 2000 to 2002
Mrs Chernukhin named in Pandora Papers
The Pandora Papers, documents leaked last year revealing owners of offshore companies and secret bank accounts, revealed Mrs Chernukhin’s wealth comes from her ex-husband.
They own a house overlooking London’s Regents Park worth £38m and a mansion in Oxfordshire bought for £10m, the papers found.
Evidence found by the investigation suggested Mr Chernukhin abused his position as the government-appointed head of a state bank to advance his private business interests.
Mrs Chernukhin’s lawyers in 2021 said it was not accepted any of her political donations had been funded by improper means or affected by the influence of anyone else.
In 2018, when Mr Johnson was foreign secretary, he said “all possible checks have been made” on Mrs Chernukhin’s donations “and will continue to be made”.
Labour criticises Chernukhin donations
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner hit out at the Conservatives for accepting donations from Mrs Chernukhin.
“This government’s dangerous links to Putin’s cronies must be rooted out,” she said.
“If this government is serious about taking the toughest measures to eradicate Putin’s influence in Britain, they must first get their own house in order.”
During Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, ahead of the new donation figures being released, Labour MP Bill Esterson asked Mr Johnson if he would instruct the Conservative Party to hand Mrs Chernukhin’s donations to Ukrainian humanitarian causes.
Mr Esterson said: “I know he doesn’t want to tar everyone with Russian links with the same brush and neither do I, but leaked documents… show that Vladimir Chernukhin received eight million US dollars from a Russian member of parliament, an ally of Putin who was later sanctioned by the United States.
“This is an opportunity for the Conservative Party and for the prime minister to end the suspicion of conflict of interests with Putin whilst showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”
Mr Johnson replied it was “absolutely vital” to demonstrate “this is not about the Russian people, it is about the Putin regime”.