Boris Johnson claims there is 'no evidence' for Russian political interference
PUBLISHED: 14:50 15 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:50 15 November 2019
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Prime minister Boris Johnson has said there is "no evidence" backing up allegations of Russian interference in British politics as calls grow for him to release a report on the matter before the election.
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In a Q&A session on BBC Radio Five Live, the prime minister was nonetheless unable to say how many Russian oligarchs have given "serious money" to the party.
He said that all Russian donors have been vetted properly and suggested that public suspicion is "simply because of the country they come from".
Public concern has grown over a report published by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which currently sits on the PM's desk in its final stage of approval.
The committee's chair, Dominic Grieve, has said that under normal timings the report should have been released by now, particularly before a general election, but the government disagrees.
Johnson insisted there was "absolutely" nothing to hide in the report.
Asked if media reports were correct that about nine Russian oligarchs were donating "serious money" to the Tories, Johnson told Radio 5 Live: "I don't know.
"They have all been properly vetted. These donations are all open to challenge if people think that they are not fit and proper persons, then they are not allowed to donate. That's the rule.
"But, I don't think that we should be hostile to people simply because of the country that they come from.
"It is very important that we show balance and fairness in this."
Pressed on why the ISC report had not yet been published, Johnson put the decision down to "normal procedures" that Grieve has challenged.
Johnson said: "I see absolutely no reason to change the normal procedures for publishing ISC reports, just because there is an election.
"Because they are not normally published at that pace and ... there is no reason to change the procedures."
Grieve has called these claims "bogus" and has asserted that after security clearance, which has been granted, the normal time frame would be about 10 days.
WATCH: Dominic Grieve says government's refusal to publish Russia report is 'bogus'
Asked if there was anything to hide in the report, Johnson said: "Absolutely not."
When pressed on the possibility of Russian interference, he said: "There is no evidence for that and I think that you have got to be very careful before you simply cast aspersions on everybody who comes from a certain country just because of their nationality."
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