UK & World News

  • 23 July 2014, 11:18

Russian Donor Row: Boris Could Scratch Match

Boris Johnson has said he will pull out of a fundraising tennis match if it transpires it was bid for by a Vladimir Putin "crony".

Lubov Chernukhin, whose husband was a finance minister in Vladimir Putin's first administration, paid £160,000 to play the game with the  Prime Minister and Mayor during an auction at the Conservative's recent summer ball fundraiser. 

However, the disclosure of the payment has put pressure on David Cameron as he pushes for sanctions against Russia in the wake of the Ukraine plane disaster.

Mr Johnson told Sky News: "I think you have to do stuff that actually hits Putin and his government where it hurts.

"I know about this tennis match - they volunteered me for with some geezer. It is very important full checks are carried out to make sure this is not someone who is an intimate or a crony."

The donation was one of £1m of donations the party has received from Russian firms and individuals, according to figures made public by Labour.

The match has yet to be played and the Tories chief strategist, Lynton Crosby was to act as ball boy.

Labour is calling on the Tories to return the donation, however, a senior Tory source had dismissed the idea that the money would be returned. 

They said: "Everything we have done has been within the rules.

"He was deputy finance minister over a decade ago and he was removed from that post. He fell out with Putin. How can he be described as a Putin crony? The donation was by his wife who has been a resident in this country for quite a few years."

Mr Cameron was also being accused of double standards after it emerged the UK still had £132m of arms contracts with Russia, including for missile parts, at a time he is putting pressure on others to toughen sanctions against Russia.