Wife of ex-Putin confidant becomes Tory Party’s biggest ever female donor

Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street; Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street; Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The wife of a former Putin ally has become the biggest ever female donor to the Tory Party, handing over £1.6 million in the last five years, again raising questions about the status of a report looking at Russia links in British politics.

Lubov Chernukhin, who married former Russian finance minister Vladimir Chernukhin, recently donated £325,000 in the first quarter of 2020, Electoral Commission data has shown.

Chernukhin's relationship with the party dates as far back as 2014 when she paid £160,000 to play a game of tennis with Boris Johnson and then-prime minister David Cameron.

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She also paid £30,000 to dine with education minister Gavin Williamson and passed on £135,000 in donations after spending an evening with Theresa May when she was prime minister and members of the cabinet.

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An investigation by the political watchdog openDemocracy found that the sum of cash given the party by Russian donors and their associates between 2018 and 2019 was £498,850 - up by almost £150,000 from the previous year.

News of the donations come as the government continues to withhold a report into Russian interference into UK politics that has was reportedly ready last October.

The prime minister has clung onto the report saying it cannot be released until a new Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has been formed. The committee is responsible for approving the document's release.

A No 10 spokesperson said: 'The report itself has been cleared for publication by the prime minister. It awaits the formation of the ISC before they can take a decision on its release.'

However, opposition parties are calling for its immediate publication.

Liberal Democrats foreign affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said the government had 'serious questions' to answer over the report.

'Especially at a time of crisis, people should have faith in their democracy. It is therefore untenable for Boris Johnson to further delay the intelligence committee's report into Russian interference of our democracy,' he told Business Insider.

'With the publication today of the latest donations to the Tories highlighting once again the party's deep connections to Russian oligarchs, serious questions will be being asked as to why the prime minister is so reluctant to publish the report.'

The report was completed in October 2019 and was headed by former Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, who has called for it to be put in the public domain.

'Parliament ought to have and must have access to this report in light of the forthcoming election and it is really unacceptable for the prime minister to sit on it and deny them that information,' he told the Commons ahead of the election.

The Tory party has said the government policy is 'in no way' influenced by party donations and that all contributions are declared to the Electoral Commission.

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