British government officials have contacted Queen Elizabeth II asking to block the appointment of a British businessman of Russian origin Evgenia Lebedeva to the upper house of parliament over fears that his father’s ties to the Kremlin pose a threat to national security. This is revealed in a Channel 4 documentary produced by OCCRP.
Officials contacted the Queen in July 2020 after the then prime minister Boris Johnson allegedly ignored the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC), which identified “significant potential risks in relation to the candidate’s family ties”, Channel 4 found out.
“Radio Liberty”, 06/26/2023, “The British Queen was asked to block Lebedev’s peerage”: About it tells in the film “Boris, the Lord and the Russian Spy”, which will be shown in the UK tomorrow, June 27th. […] Upon learning of intelligence concerns about his peerage candidate, Boris Johnson, then British Prime Minister, “reacted irritably” said Johnson adviser Dominic Cummings in March 2020. Johnson argued that since there was no evidence linking Yevgeny himself to the Putin regime or Russian intelligence, he could continue promoting Lebedev. […] Lebedev said earlier that he “does not pose a security threat to the country he loves.” On the pages of the Evening Standard, he called the accusations a “farce” and a manifestation of Russophobia. — Inset K.ru
Evgeny Lebedev’s father is 63 years old Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB intelligence officer who served in London in the 1980s and 1990s. He later became a businessman and acquired the British newspaper The Evening Standardwhich Eugene helped to manage.
According to the documentary, the chairman of HOLAC addressed the prime minister on July 23, 2020, after British security services learned of Johnson’s nomination of Yevgeny Lebedev to the House of Lords. Nevertheless, Lebedev’s inauguration took place in December 2020.
Lord David Clark, who was a member of HOLAC at the time, told the filmmakers that Johnson had shown a “dangerous” disregard for the constitution.
Lord George Foulkes, a former member of the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security, said he knew of “no other example of a Prime Minister rejecting intelligence advice on national security grounds.”
Britain’s monarch is constitutionally entitled to interfere with upper house appointments, but the queen reportedly turned down the request, allegedly due to Buckingham Palace’s fear of drawing her into a political controversy.
“All peerage candidates … are vetted by the Appointments Committee of the House of Lords,” Boris Johnson’s spokesman said. “Mr Johnson remains fully supportive of Lord Lebedev’s appointment and as the government has repeatedly confirmed that normal process was followed… Mr Johnson did not ‘reject HOLAC’s decision or ignore safety advice’.
Yevgeny Lebedev’s spokesman told the channel that the security services did not try to convince [премьер-министра] withdraw the nomination. “As for his father, he made it clear that he has no ties to the Putin regime and does not support it,” he said. Alexander Lebedev did not answer journalists’ questions.
In 2014, weeks after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, Alexander Lebedev corresponded with members of Vladimir Putin’s administration about the peninsula, a presidential aide’s emails leaked. Vladislav Surkovwhich has been reviewed by OCCRP.
In particular, on March 5, 2014, Lebedev sent a letter to the head of the presidential administration Sergei Ivanov with a proposal to organize group holidays at Crimean resorts for employees of the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other civil servants. In the letter, Lebedev warned of “catastrophic consequences for the economy of the peninsula” due to events in Crimea.
A few days later, Lebedev sent a letter to Vladislav Surkov proposing that a peace conference be held in the historic Crimean theater, the restoration of which he had financed.