LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied on Wednesday that his Conservative Party took donations from Russian oligarchs, saying all those who fund the governing party were registered in Britain.
After Russia heightened fears of a full-scale offensive against Ukraine, some opposition lawmakers have accused the government of failing to impose tough sanctions against Moscow because of donations of what one called “dirty Russian money”.
Asked whether the prime minister would commit to giving up donations from Russian oligarchs, Johnson told parliament: “I just think it’s very important … to understand that we do not raise money from Russian oligarchs … we raise money from people who are registered to vote on the UK register of interests.”
According to the Electoral Commission, the Conservative Party has received funds from some donors who have earned much of their wealth in Russia.
A spokesperson for Britain’s main opposition leader Keir Starmer said the Conservative Party had received 1.89 million pounds ($2.57 million) of “Russian money” in donations.
But Johnson’s press secretary said the Conservative Party always does due diligence on any donations and only accepts donations from British citizens.
“The Conservative Party does not accept foreign donations, that’s illegal, and … donations are all properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission,” the press secretary told reporters.
“I would make the point that there are people in this country of Russian-origin who are British citizens and many are critics of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, so it’s wrong and discriminatory to tar them all with the same brush.”
($1 = 0.7351 pounds)
(Reporting by William James and Elizabeth Piper, Editing by Kylie MacLellan and Alistair Smout)