Statement from Evgeny Lebedev in response to media speculation

It troubles me that I am even writing this at a time when others are suffering so much and deserve unreserved focus. The harrowing news we are hearing from Ukraine is heartbreaking. Each hour brings fresh reports of a child killed, lives lost, or families forced to flee their homes.

Nevertheless, accusations are coming from credible media outfits who are posing incredible questions to me, so I feel I have no option but to respond. As someone who believes in transparency and the freedom of the press, I want to provide this statement as some context.

I am a British citizen. I first moved here as a child, and was educated in the United Kingdom at primary and secondary level. I am proud to be a British citizen and consider Britain my home.

I have publicly made clear my condemnation of the war in Ukraine, and called on President Putin to end the invasion of the country, in the most public way possible, through a letter to him published on the front page of the Evening Standard.

Our Ukraine Appeal has so far already raised £300,000, with every penny going to help the men, women and children who are fleeing the fighting in search of safety and desperately need food, water and medicines.

At the moment, many with Russian roots are under scrutiny, including myself. I understand the reason for this, as it is inevitable when events of such magnitude occur and the world order as we have known it in recent decades suddenly gets torn up.

But I am not a security risk to this country, which I love. My father, a long time ago, was a foreign intelligence agent of the KGB, but I am not some agent of Russia. The editorial coverage in The Independent and the Evening Standard (of which I am also a shareholder) of Russia and its activities, over the time of my involvement in those titles, makes that clear. There can be no question of the editorial independence and excellence of both titles in their coverage of this war.

In recent years, my father has also spent his time campaigning against corruption and illegal financial dealings, by which he has sought to expose the network of inappropriate financial dealings occurring globally, not least in his recent book Hunt the Banker.

My family has a record of standing up for press freedom, not only in the United Kingdom but also in Russia. We are long-term supporters of Novaya Gazeta, the only surviving independent newspaper in Russia, which we are honoured to have supported alongside the staff and our friend, the former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Novaya Gazeta campaigns to expose hypocrisies and corruptions in Russia through its brave reporting. The awarding to it last year of the Nobel Peace Prize was a moment of particular pride to myself and my family due to our role in its history, of helping to ensure its survival.

Taking such actions is not without risk. Our work offices were raided and possessions seized. My father was almost thrown in prison on trumped-up charges. Many people were warned not to have business dealings with us.

It seems absurd to me, knowing what has occurred in recent years and the efforts we have taken, that I have to deny some of the speculations made against me, which at times have bordered on the farcical.

I have always believed that the editorial of The Independent and the Evening Standard speaks for itself, as do their charitable campaigns that have raised so far more than £50m. But at such times as these, it is apparently necessary.

I am proud to have supported these titles, and their many staff, with hundreds of millions of pounds of investment over the past turbulent decade. As a child of the Soviet Union, I strongly believe in a free and diverse press and the value these titles provide.

I am also proud of the social campaigns, my achievements for animal conservation in Africa and elsewhere, and the money I have helped raise for British charities over the past 15 years.

I may have a Russian name, but that makes me no less a committed or proud British citizen than anyone else in this country of ours. Being Russian does not automatically make one an enemy of the state, and it is crucial we do not descend into Russophobia, like any other phobia, bigotry or discrimination.

Like you, I pray for President Putin to end the war in Ukraine. Like you, I pray the bloodshed and suffering ends and no more Ukrainians or Russian soldiers have to die needlessly. Like you, I pray that the dark cloud that has fallen across Europe is lifted.

In the meantime, I remain committed to supporting the best journalism, with the most accurate stories and the most arresting pictures. That is my commitment, and one I could not be more determined to uphold.

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