Security Minister Brandon Lewis took to the airwaves this morning to claim that the Conservative Party hadn’t received Russian money during the general election campaign. Except, that’s not entirely true.
BBC interviewer Andrew Marr asked Lewis: “Has there been Russian money funding the Conservative Party in this campaign.”
Lewis responded: “No. The funding for the Conservative Party comes from people who are declared through the Electoral Commission and are British citizens. And it is quite right that anybody who is a British citizen has a right to play their part in our country’s politics and to donate to a political party if they want to.”
Now, this debate revolves around one Conservative donor in particular. On 6th November 2019, the day that Parliament was dissolved and the general election campaign officially began, the Tories received a generous £200,000 donation from one Lubov Chernukhin.
Lewis is correct to say that every big Tory donor has British citizenship, including Chernukhin. But her background is a bit more complicated than that.
Chernukhin was born in Russia, and is the wife of Vladimir Chernukhin, Vladimir Putin’s former finance minister. Mrs Chernukhin once paid £160,000 to play tennis with Boris Johnson, and has donated a total of £450,000 to the Tories over the last 12 months alone.
While Chernukhin has British citizenship, it’s way off the mark to suggest that she has no ties to Russia – and that the money she gave to the party is in no way linked back to her home country.
What’s more, if Marr would have extended his question to Conservative fundraising over the course of the last nine years, Brandon Lewis might not have been able to give such a coy response.
An openDemocracy investigation recently found that the Tories have raised more than £3.5 million from funders with links to Russia, since 2010. This has included Russian billionaire financier Lev Mikheev, who has donated £212,000 to the Tories since 2010. Mikheev was described by the Daily Mail in 2014 as a “billionaire financier with offices in London and next door to the Kremlin in the Russian capital”.
The Tories have recently been indulging in wild conspiracies about Jeremy Corbyn’s links to Russia. It’s high time we scrutinised their own record.