Boris Johnson was accused of being a “threat to national security” following reports he was at a Tory party fundraising event on the night Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine.
According to The Sunday Times, the prime minister was at a Conservative Party fundraising dinner attended by at least one donor with links to Russia on the night Vladimir Putin launched his war in Ukraine.
The paper reports that the PM gave a short speech at the event in central London as it became clear the Russian invasion was imminent, telling the 75 guests he had to leave early to deal with the crisis.
The Russian donor at the fundraising event was Lubov Chernukhin, wife of a former Russian deputy finance minister, who has given almost £2m to the Conservative Party since 2012.
The event began on 23 February at about 8pm, according to the paper, and was held at an 18th century aristocratic mansion, Spencer House, a Grade I listed building just a mile from Downing Street.
Two of the PM’s most senior cabinet colleagues, the defence secretary Ben Wallace and the levelling up secretary Michael Gove, were also present, The Sunday Times reports.
It took place despite warnings – including from Mr Johnson personally – that the invasion appeared imminent, and only hours before Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered an address in a last-ditch attempt to avert the war.
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Responding to The Sunday Times report, Anneliese Dodds, chair of the Labour Party, said: “Boris Johnson is a threat to national security.
“On the eve of war the prime minister should have been completely focused on national security – not trying to get cash from the wife of Putin’s former finance minister.
“Boris Johnson’s party has accepted over £6.5m from donors linked to Putin’s murderous regime. He should be cleaning up our politics, not courting these people for more money.”
But a Downing Street spokesperson told Sky News: “The Prime Minister briefly attended this event which was a longstanding diary engagement.
“Fundraising is a legitimate part of our democratic process and it is not unusual for the Prime Minister, or any political leader, to attend such an event.”
According to Tory sources, the PM attended the event for around 20 minutes and was not aware that Russia was going to invade Ukraine at the time of the event. He was informed around 4am on 24 February.
Labour’s attack came after the PM accused Labour of “running up the white flag” over the war in Ukraine, in his speech at the Conservative spring conference in Blackpool.
“When the Labour Party and the current leader were trying with might and main to install a leader who wanted – I’m sorry, I’m serious – to abolish NATO, we were already training Ukrainian troops to fight,” he said.
“And it’s an absolutely incredible fact – and it’s true – at a time when Russia is being led by a president who is capable of bullying and threats who’s plainly capable of making dangerous and irrational decisions, we have a Labour Party whose shadow cabinet is stuffed with people who only recently voted to abolish the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent. That’s right. Eight of them.
“Do we want them in charge, my friends, at this moment? Do we want them running up the white flag? Do you see them standing up to Putin’s blackmail?”