Tory minister says Russian donors have right to ‘invest in’ British political scene

Row over whether No 10 blocked top-secret report into alleged Russian election interference

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 14 November 2019 12:17 GMT
General Election 2019: What you need to know

Russian donors have a right to "invest" in the UK's political scene if they are British citizens, a senior Tory minister has said.

Home office minister Brandon Lewis defended his party's record on accepting cash from oligarchs living in the UK amid a row over the delayed publication of a top-secret report on alleged Russian interference in elections.

Downing Street has been accused of blocking publication of the cross-party intelligence and security select committee (ISC) dossier, which reportedly referred to a string of Conservative donors.

Mr Lewis said the report would be not be published until after the election due to pre-election rules, claiming the timescale was completely normal.

Asked about donations he has received from prominent Russians, Mr Lewis told the Today programme: "I have had donations from Lubov (Chernukhin) and also Alexander Temerko, as has the Conservative Party.

"They are British citizens, they are prominent British citizens. Alexander himself has invested in the renewable energy industry in the East of England.

"So these are British citizens, they have the absolute right as any other British citizen does, to invest in and be part of the British political scene.

"I think it is wrong to accuse them of anything else."

Ms Chernukhin, the wife of Vladimir Putin's former finance minister, once paid £160,000 to play tennis with Boris Johnson and donated £450,000 to the party over the last 12 months.

Mr Temerko, a Ukraine-born businessman, has donated more than £1m to the Conservatives in recent years.

Nine Russian donors were named in the ISC report, according to The Sunday Times. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by any of the donors.

Expelled Tory Dominic Grieve, who chairs the committee, has repeatedly called for the report to be published before the election.

But Mr Lewis said: "This report will be published. Obviously we are in purdah now. These reports as you know go through a process. It takes four to six weeks on average over the last couple of years.

"We are now in purdah which will obviously delay that a little bit but once the election is out of the way, we will publish that report."

Security officials previously told The Independent that they were completely in the dark over why the document had not been published.

One said: “We are as much spectators in this as you are. All the redactions necessary have been done and no last-minute issues have arisen.

"We have no objections to the report being published now.”

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