Boris Johnson denies intervening to secure peerage for Evgeny Lebedev

Claim ‘simply incorrect’, says prime minister

Related video: Putin is ‘doubling down’ on level of violence in Ukraine, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has denied intervening to override security concerns about the peerage granted to Evgeny Lebedev.

Labour has urged the prime minister to tell a powerful parliamentary committee everything he knows about the Russian-born peer’s elevation to the House of Lords.

It follows a report in TheSunday Times which alleged that security services withdrew an assessment that granting a peerage posed a national security risk after the PM personally intervened.

Rebutting the claim on Monday, Mr Johnson told reporters: “That is simply incorrect ... It suits [Russian president Vladimir] Putin’s agenda to try to characterise this as a struggle between the west and Russia.

“It suits his agenda to say that the UK, that we in Nato countries, are anti-Russia, European countries are now anti-Russian.”

He added: “It’s very, very, very important that we get the message over that we’re not anti-Russian, we’re not against Russians. Our quarrel is simply with the regime and the aggression of Vladimir Putin.”

Mr Johnson said it would “obviously be extraordinary” if the security services had deemed Lord Lebedev to be a risk and the prime minister had intervened to ensure the peerage was granted, “but that’s not the case”.

A government spokesman said: “All individuals nominated for a peerage are done so in recognition of their contribution to society and all peerages are vetted by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.”

Earlier on Monday, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly defended the peer’s place in the House of Lords.

“He is here as a British dual national, he is a businessman, he has been an effective businessman,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Asked why the son of a former KGB agent had been granted a seat in parliament, Mr Cleverly said: “My father was a former chartered surveyor, but I’m not. So what your father did for work is, I’m not completely sure, totally relevant.”

Lord Lebedev, a major shareholder in The Independent, has spoken once, and never voted, in the Lords. Mr Cleverly said: “There are lots of members of the House of Lords who are not active members of the House of Lords.

“It rather flies in the face of this accusation that somehow he is distorting British politics if he is not voting on British laws.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has written to the prime minister asking him to “make available to the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) the advice and information you were given about the ennobling of Evgeny Lebedev and full information about the role you played in the process”.

Lord Lebedev told TheSunday Times that “all” of the allegations in its report were incorrect and the questions did not “merit an answer”.

The peer has appealed to Mr Putin to stop the invasion of Ukraine in the Evening Standard newspaper.

Lord Lebedev said: “I plead with you to use today’s negotiations to bring this terrible conflict in Ukraine to an end.”

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