Russian Oligarchs’ Influence in British Politics

Nine Russian Oligarchs (Deripaska is top centre) - Source: Wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Nine Russian Oligarchs (Deripaska is top centre) – Source: Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 3.0

Dear Sir,

How did the Russian oligarchs becomes so politically influential in Britain?

Oleg Deripaska is at the root of the Tory Party dependency on Russian money. Deripaska, ironically now sanctioned by the British government, was originally targeted by the future Conservative chancellor George Osborne in 2008 when Osborne was partying on the Russian’s £80 million yacht moored in Corfu in Greece.

Old Etonian Nathan Rothschild has stated that Osborne used meetings with Oleg Deripaska to try and solicit a sizeable donation for the Tory Party. Yet, Deripaska was already seen as a dubious figure, his visa to the USA had been cancelled in 2007.

In 2012 in the English High Court, Deripaska was alleged to have ties to the Russian Mafia which had emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union. By then he was wanted for money laundering with an arrest warrant from Spain.

After this year’s Ukrainian invasion Deripaska’s house in Belgrave Square, which should have been frozen by sanctions, was taken over by squatters. The power of the Oligarchs over this government was shown graphically when, in the words of Sky News, rapidly following the takeover “The street [was] cordoned off with at least 10 police vehicles and more than 30 officers” were on the scene. How many Britons can get that many police and their vehicles so quickly when they need them?

Because of the slow and dilatory way the government applied sanctions to Deripaska, he had plenty of time to avoid any seizure. He now claims the Belgrave Square mansion no longer belongs to him but is in a family trust!

Son of another Oligarch, Baron Lebedev of Siberia, was given his peerage by Boris Johnson, for supporting him previously in two London Mayoral elections. Lebedev owns the London Evening Standard newspaper.  He also has a wolf (yes a wolf!) called Boris. He has trained Boris to sit up and beg, roll over and bark on command. Lebedev’s wolf can also do tricks!

The influence of the Russians in the Brexit referendum has been debated. In 2018 Reuters reported that Vladimir Putin told the then Tory Prime Minister, Theresa May, that the UK should not hold a second referendum on Brexit, insisting Theresa May must “fulfil the will of the people”. So having a Brexit Referendum and splitting the UK from the EU was definitely Russian policy!

Yet when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister he was very reluctant to release a report on Russian influence in British politics. When it was, it was significantly redacted to protect Johnson’s Russian cronies or Tory donors. The report did however state that ‘… there is substantial evidence that Russian interference in British politics is commonplace’.

How much effort and how much progress has been made by this Tory government in tracking down the assets of Vladimir Putin and his oligarch cronies in Britain? Or are the links between the two too tangled and interwoven?


Andrew Milroy

Ed: Since this letter was written we uncovered this Russian connection to our Prime Minister.

The Russian propaganda publication, ‘Russia Beyond’ (formerly ‘Russia Beyond the Headlines’) paid the Daily Telegraph £40,000 per month for its content to be distributed as a supplement to the Sunday Telegraph and featured on the Daily Telegraph website. The monthly Russia-themed supplement first appeared in The Daily Telegraph in 2007 and continued to be included for close on a decade.

The content was approved by the Kremlin. The Telegraph group made close to £500,000 a year from including this Russian supplement, nearly £5 million in total.  

This connection continued through the Russian invasion and occupation of Crimea in 2014. During this time, the Telegraph softened its previous strongly anti-Russian stance of the Reagan/Thatcher years, and hardened its anti-EU stance. The Kremlin got its propaganda into the homes of the Telegraph’s Tory party readers.

Soon after this Boris Johnson began to write his very profitable columns for the Telegraph, for which he was paid £275,000 a year.  At this time he became the highest paid journalist in Fleet Street, based on word count. His copy was usually filed late, and had been written at great speed. On one occasion the then editor was so irritated by the lateness he discarded the copy. Johnson was furious. His reaction shows just how deeply his sense of entitlement runs. He believes it’s one rule for Boris Johnson and another for everyone else, just as with the Downing Street Parties.

And where did the funding come from to pay for this inflated ‘salary’? It was substantially more than Johnson’s salary as Prime Minister which is around £160,000. 

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