London, UK: The House of Lords has announced the suspension of Lord Robert Skidelsky for failing to declare his financial ties to a Russian businessman accused of supporting the authoritarian regime in Belarus.
Lord Robert Skidelsky, a prominent economist and member of the House of Lords, has been found to have obscured his links to the Centre for Global Studies (CGS), which is funded by Mikhail Gutseriev and his son Said Gutseriev.
Both have been sanctioned by the UK.
Said Gutseriev has been linked to a £160m portfolio of London properties.
Gutseriev, a billionaire businessman, has been accused of financially supporting the government of Aleksandr Lukashenko in Belarus, which has been propped up by the Kremlin.
In 2021, following 2020–2021 Belarusian protests, Gutseriev was sanctioned by the EU and the UK for his long-standing support and friendship with Lukashenko.
In 2022, he was sanctioned by Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Ukraine in relation to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Skidelsky, who sat on the board of Russneft, a private oil company owned by Gutseriev, failed to disclose his financial benefits from the company.
This violation of the House of Lords’ Code of Conduct has resulted in his suspension from the House.
Lord Robert Skidelsky’s suspension has raised concerns about the influence of foreign money in British politics.
Lord Skidelsky, who sat on the board of Russneft, a private oil company, until last year, has spoken in parliament of his opposition to the government’s strategy in Ukraine and has questioned Finland and Sweden joining NATO.
He has also argued that Ukraine’s Russian-speaking areas should be able to break away from Kyiv.
“The most important development, autobiographically, has been the deepening -or possibly resumption – of my links with Russia.
“I have for some years now been on the board of Lena Nemirovskaya’s Moscow School of Political Studies.
“This spring I spent two and a half months in Moscow learning Russian – a language which my parents discouraged me from taking up in childhood when it would have been much easier for me to do so,” – Lord Robert Skidelsky.
The revelation of his ties to Gutseriev and Russneft has sparked calls for stricter regulations on the disclosure of financial interests by members of the House of Lords.
The Centre for Global Studies, which Skidelsky was associated with, has also come under scrutiny for its funding sources and potential conflicts of interest.
Skidelsky is accused of wrongly using his parliamentary office as CGS headquarters, prematurely removing CGS from his register of interests and failing to declare benefits linked to the think tank. His staff were paid by CGS.
The House of Lords has stated that Lord Skidelsky’s suspension will remain in effect until a thorough investigation into his financial ties is conducted.
This incident serves as a reminder of the importance of transparency and ethical conduct in the political sphere.
The House of Lords is committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and will take necessary actions to ensure that its members adhere to the Code of Conduct.
Fellow travellers: On June 12th of this year, Lord Robert Skidelsky attended, along with former Labour MEP Lord Richard Balfe, now a Conservative peer, a party in London organised by Andrei Kelin, the Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, European Pravda reported.
The party was held on the occasion of Russia Day. The event was attended by 50 people in total, including Russian Embassy staff, foreign diplomats and several Britons.
Diplomats from several western nations boycotted the reception, but representatives were present from countries that have taken a neutral or supportive stance towards the Russian invasion.
Amongst those present described by The Times as “Russia-supportive Britons” were former UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom who recently stated that Nato “has destroyed every country it touches” and condemned western involvement in the war.
Kelin reportedly said “in order to develop normally, Russia must first deal with significant threats to its security.”
The ambassador also accused Britain of a “big strategic miscalculation” by taking a confrontational approach to Moscow.
Lord Balfe confirmed to the Guardian that he had attended the event, where he said he had a brief conversation with the Russian military attache.
According to him, he believes that the war will end in negotiations and Ukraine will give part of its territory to Russia.
“All effort is devoted to exploiting differences, that is why instead of pursuing a peaceful solution in Ukraine we are fighting a proxy war.
“I am told that the U.S aim is the collapse of the Russian Federation which would be a disaster for Europe.
“The EU lacks the vision and foresight we had during the Delors/Kohl/Mitterand period,” – Lord Richard Balfe.
Lord Balfe called Ukraine a “mess of a country,” which was allegedly “knocked together by Churchill and Stalin towards the end of world war two.”
He added that he believed that “Crimea is most definitely Russian,” and that Moscow allegedly has legitimate claims to Donetsk and Luhansk.
Read also: European Parliament: MEPs call for urgent protection of 2024 European elections from foreign influence.
Main image: Door Jwh at Wikipedia Luxembourg, CC BY-SA 3.0 lu, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36331150