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Johnson's Russian backers

nnt4 (Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash)Despite the findings of the Intelligence and Security Committee last year that failures at the heart of Government have allowed the Russians to interfere and influence our democracy, it seems there is no stopping them from pushing funds at the Tories.

The Mirror reports that new analysis has found the Conservative Party has accepted £280,000 from Russia-linked donors in the year since the publication of the Russia Report. And almost £2 million in Russian-linked cash has been donated to the Tories since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.

The paper adds for good measure, that none of the 21 recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee have been implemented:

The heavily-redacted report noted that there had been widespread allegations that Russia sought to influence voters in the 2016 Brexit referendum - and that the government and intelligence agencies had failed to fully look into them.

And it uncovered an influx of Russian money into the UK - and into "Londongrad" in particular - following the introduction of the "investor visa" scheme in 1994.

The scheme, introduced for the first time by John Major's Tory government, allowed wealthy oligarchs to "buy" citizenship in exchange for a £2 million investment in UK bonds or shares through a bank.

The so-called "golden visa" scheme was suspended in 2018 over fears it was being used for money laundering, but was restarted the following year.

The report said the money was invested in building influence across the UK establishment - including "PR firms, charities, political interests, academia and cultural institutions" - all of whom were "willing beneficiaries of Russian money."

And it went on to say: "In brief, Russian influence in the UK is 'the new normal', and there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth."
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The report noted that "several members" of the Russian elite - some of whom had close links to Vladimir Putin - have donated to UK political parties.

But the report - at least in its redacted form - did not name the donors or the parties benefiting from the cash.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of the donors, all of whom are now British citizens and are legally entitled to donate to UK political parties.

Among the figures filling Tory coffers is banker Lubov Chernukhin, who is married to Putin's former deputy finance minister Vladimir Chernukhin, has given a total of £1.7 million to the party.

These donations have included bids at fundraising auctions at the notorious Tory Black and White Ball, where over the years she has secured a night out with Theresa May, a tennis match with Boris Johnson and a private dinner with then-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson in the Churchill War Rooms.

She has donated almost £65,000 to the Tories in the last year.

In March the Conservatives received £50,000 from Access Industries, the firm owned by Len Blavatnik, Britain's richest man with an estimated fortune of £23bn.

Mr Blavatnik is understood to have made much of his fortune in 1990s Russia, where he invested heavily in the state's largest aluminium firm and its third-largest oil producer.

But while many of his contemporaries - who maintained closer links to the Kremlin - have found themselves sanctioned by Western nations, Mr Blavatnik secured British citizenship in 2010 and a knighthood in 2017.

Mr Blavatnik donated to Donald Trump's inauguration fund. While he was not mentioned in the unredacted sections of Robert Mueller's report in to Russian meddling in US elections, it was widely reported that he was under scrutiny from the probe.

And Alexander Temerko, a wealthy businessman whose Aquind firm is awaiting government approval for a billion pound electricity interconnector under the Channel, has also been a frequent donor in recent years.

Mr Temerko, who has been a critic of President Putin, and his firm have given more than £1.6 million to the Tories.

A Spokesperson for Mr Temerko said: "Mr. Temerko is a Ukrainian-born British citizen and has no links to Russia.

"Mr. Temerko left Russia in 2003, following his political persecution in the well-known Yukos Oil Company case by the Putin regime.

"Since then, he has never returned to Russia, nor worked for or partnered with any Russian-linked business."

The case for a reform of party political funding has never been stronger.