Lubov Chernukhin is said to have lobbied against higher tax for the ultra-rich and is the largest female donor in British political history
The wife of President Putin’s former deputy finance minister is on a secret ‘advisory board’ which has direct access to Boris Johnson, the chancellor Rishi Sunak and a raft of other senior ministers, it has been revealed.
It comes amid rising tensions between Russia and the West over the crisis in Ukraine, with Western leaders fearing that a Russian invasion of the country is ‘imminent’. While the Tories have sought to talk tough on Russia, vowing an unprecedented package of sanctions, questions have been raised as to just how effective any action will be given the close links between Russian donors, who are linked to Putin, and the Conservative Party.
Indeed, the Conservative Party are no strangers to allegations of corruption, sleaze and carrying out favours for donors with deep pockets. It’s been widely reported that wealthy donors who have taken on the temporary role of party treasurer have been offered a seat in the House of Lords once they have donated more than £3 million.
Yet now the party stands accused of ‘ushering millionaires’ into the heart of government as part of a secret ‘advisory board’, according to an investigation carried out by the Times. Among those secret donors is someone with close links to the Putin regime.
More broadly, the revelations have serious implications for our democracy, showing how money and wealth can not only buy you influence and a seat at the top table, but also means you can influence policy.
Among these shadowy donors, six of whom feature on the Sunday Times Rich List, is 50 year-old Lubov Chernukhin, a former banker who is the wife of President Putin’s former deputy finance minister Vladimir Chernukhin.
Lubov Chernukhin is said to have lobbied against higher tax for the ultra-rich and is the largest female donor in British political history, having donated £2 million to the Conservatives from 2012 to 2020.
Chernukhin once gave £135,000 to the Tories in exchange for an invite to a ladies’ night dinner at a luxury hotel with Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet in April 2019. She has also twice made winning bids at an auction for tennis matches with Boris Johnson.
Journalist and Russia expert Edward Lucas, who gave evidence to the parliamentary inquiry into Russian influence, once told BBC’s Panorama programme: “The Chernukhins, pleasant people that they might be… are not fit and proper people to make donations to a British political party.”
The BBC have also previously alleged that Chernukhin’s husband “was secretly funded by a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Putin”.
The Chernukhins’ lawyers have insisted it was not accepted that any of Lubov Chernukhin’s political donations had been funded by improper means or affected by the influence of anyone else.
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward