However, Sunak’s government has so far stopped short of proposing the seizure of tens of billions of pounds’ worth of Russian assets currently frozen in UK financial institutions.
It should be not be overlooked that the governing Conservative Party has something of a tradition of accepting significant donations from wealthy Russians. According to the UK-based Good Law Project, Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has not persuaded the party to break the tradition.
“Since the start of the war in 2022, the Conservatives have accepted at least £243,000 from Russia-associated donors – including at least £61,000 flowing into Tory coffers in 2023 alone,” –Good Law Project, (11 April 2023.)
One donor, Lubov Chernukhin is the largest female political donor in British history having donated over £2 million to the Conservative Party.
Chernukhin, the wife of Vladimir Chernukhin, a former deputy finance minister under Vladimir Putin and former chairman of Russian state corporation VEB.RF, which is currently sanctioned by the UK Government, is a member of the Conservative Party’s Advisory Board for significant donors.
Documents in the Pandora Papers leak of internal files and correspondence from offshore financial firms show the couple are linked to a network of 32 companies, three trusts and more than £100m in assets.
“The Pandora Papers files also show Mr Chernukhin has done business with people close to the Kremlin. “Leaked files reveal their reliance on the hidden offshore world, and thereby offer a clue as to their interests, The Guardian suggested in October 2021.
Political law expert Gavin Millar QC told the BBC: “When you’ve got somebody who’s a prominent associate of people who are connected with the Kremlin and… with Russian government, you would have thought any British political party… would start to investigate it and ask why that money is being given.”
“Aquind, a British cabling company controlled by Russian born oil tycoon Viktor Fedotov, has donated £42,000 to the Conservative Party in the past 14 months, including a £10,000 cash donation to Liam Fox MP reported in January this year,” Good Law reports.
“Fedotov’s ties to Russia have been well documented, with reports suggesting he made at least £72m from an offshore financial structure that appears to have funnelled money from Russian companies.”
The Daily Beast reported in December 2020 that Fedotov was “revealed to be the owner of Aquind, a company that has donated heavily to the Conservative party while seeking ministerial approval for a $1.5 billion energy infrastructure project, the building of an underwater power cable running from Portsmouth in England to France.”
Boris Johnson & Evgeny Lebedev.
Lord Evgeny Lebedev, who has dual Russian and British nationality, is the son of a former KGB spy, Colonel Alexander Lebedev, a former officer in the First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence) of the Soviet Union’s KGB.
He moved to the UK as a child and owns the The Independent and London Evening Standard newspapers.
He became a non-party, cross-bench peer in July 2020, after being nominated by Boris Johnson for philanthropy and services to the media.
Johnson’s name was again associated with Lebedev when Italy’s secret intelligence service was monitoring the luxury Umbrian villa owned by the Lebedev family when Johnson visited in April 2018 during the time was he was foreign secretary, the Guardian reported at the time.
MPs voted in March of last year to force the publication of secret documents, amid claims the security services had raised concerns about the Russian-born mogul. However, the Cabinet Office has released only limited information to comply with the demand.
Neither of the Lebedev’s is recorded to have financially contributed to the Conservative Party, but the relationships with Boris Johnson were raised by the House of Commons’ Intelligence and Security Committee in 2019.
Subsequently, Johnson blocked a report by the Committee naming Russian donors.