Posted on Aug 01, 2020
Recent controversy over Boris Johnson's Conservative Party and its links to Russian money seem to have done little to diminish the prime minister's chutzpah. As well as elevating his own brother to the House of Lords, Johnson has bestowed the same honour on Yevgeny Lebedev, who along with his father Alexander, a KGB spy and oligarch, is co-owner of the Independent and Evening Standard newspapers. This comes just one week after the publication of the bombshell report on Russian interference in the UK - a report than Johnson suppressed for almost a year.
Lebedev Jr. was reported to have entertained then Foreign Secretary Johnson at a party in his family’s villa in Perugia, Italy, in Spring 2018. It was on this, or possibly on one of a number of subsequent trips, that Johnson reportedly first met Lebedev Sr., who served in the First Main Directorate of the KGB in London until 1992, under the diplomatic cover of an economic attaché.
As such the Russian would have been responsible for foreign operational and intelligence activities such as the training and management of covert agents, intelligence collection and administration, and the acquisition of foreign and domestic political, scientific and technical intelligence.
There is no such thing as a 'former' KGB agent...
Vladimir Putin, who was to become head of the FSB, successor to the KGB, also served in the First Directorate.
Lebedev Sr. supported Putin's military take-over and illegal annexation of Crimea, holding a conference there in 2017 to counter what he said was western media “bias”.
At the time of his acquisition of the Evening Standard in 2009, the Financial Times Lex Column had this to say about Lebedev: "Another vanity publisher is the last thing the newspaper sector needs... If he hopes the trophy asset, which could lose £17.5m this year, will confer compensating non-cash benefits, in the form of influence and prestige, he may be disappointed."
Lebedev Sr. has denied that he has contributed to the Conservative Party, but his son's involvement is uncertain.
Certainly he likes to keep senior Tories close: recently he appointed Emily Sheffield, the sister-in-law of the former prime minister David Cameron, as the paper’s new editor, replacing the former conservative chancellor George Osborne.
- Russian influence over Brexit: questions that won't go away
- Britain accuses Russia of seeking to interfere in general election
Concerns have previously been raised about Johnson's decision to attend lavish events as the guest of such as the Lebedevs.
Fears have previously been voiced that Johnson's "colourful" private life may make him a "security risk" due to the possibility he could be blackmailed. Former UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt previously claimed that Johnson was vulnerable to blackmail from foreign powers.
As EUToday reported last week, serious concerns have also been raised over the background of Johnson's apparent right-hand man, Dominic Cummings.
It has been reported that officials have withheld classified material from Cummings because of the time he spent in Russia during his 20s, when he is alleged to have cultivated relationships with prominent backers of Vladmir Putin.
Last year Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry wrote her to Tory counterpart Dominic Raab questioning whether Cummings had been granted access to the British government's most sensitive "top secret" intelligence files.
Downing Street said it did not comment on the security clearance of individuals.
There are, at least at the present time, more questions than answers when it comes to the British Prime Minister's personal relationships: however, one particularly telling detail, and one which in any other context the possible importance of which would likely be overlooked, is that on March 19th Boris Johnson's last declared meeting before the imposition of the COVID-19 lockdown was with unknown representatives of “Lebedev Holdings”.
Screenshot from Cabinet Office transparency data published July 30th 2020.
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