Tory peer Greg Barker’s Russian dirty money fiasco is going from bad to worse. First, his boss Oleg Deripaska was whacked with sanctions by the US government, with shares in Barker’s En+ then plummeting. Next, the Foreign Affairs select committee condemned the flotation of En+ on the London Stock Exchange, with MI6 and US security officials expressing concerns about the IPO. So you can see why Barker would want to hire a lobbying firm to help him fight the sanctions…
Unfortunately, the firm Barker has chosen, Mercury Public Affairs, which is charging En+ more than $100,000 a month, is the subject of two subpoenas from Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian links to the Trump campaign. The Washington Post reported:
The investigators asked Mercury for information about their public relations work at Manafort’s behest for a Brussels-based organization called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, which pushed for improved relations between Ukraine and European countries. The Brussels group primarily advanced the interests of a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party that had been a client of Manafort’s before he joined the Trump campaign.
So the firm Barker has brought in to spin for him amid allegations of links to Russia is itself being investigated for its own links to Russia. Quite a run of bad luck for Greg…
Grandstanding select committee chairman Damian Collins has spent the last year chasing headlines about Russian interference in British politics. So it’s a bit rich of him to be taking donations from a Russian billionaire who is a close ally of Vladimir Putin…
The latest Register of Members’ Interests reveals that Collins accepted two tickets worth £1,000 to a football match at Stamford Bridge paid for by Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea FC. Abramovich has since had his visa renewal application delayed by the UK government, reportedly due to his close links to Putin. The oligarch was described by the Guardian last month as a “big Kremlin player”. Perhaps Collins should write himself one of his famous letters…
Russophile former Tory minister Greg Barker’s firm EN+ has been implicated in the Foreign Affairs select committee report into dirty Russian money in London. Lord Barker’s primary role as chairman of EN+ was to give the group a veneer of respectability and to reassure the City as the Russian energy and aluminium producer listed on the London Stock Exchange last year. Then last month, Barker’s boss Oleg Deripaska was whacked with sanctions by the US government and accused of “benefiting from the Putin regime and playing a key role in advancing Russia’s malign activities”. While the FASC report says “there is no evidence of impropriety in the legal sense”, it is damning of the EN+ flotation on the LSE:
The flotation of En+ Group on the London Stock Exchange in November 2017, which raised around £1bn in share sales, provides an example of the contradictions inherent in UK Government policy towards Russia…
In February 2018, press reports emerged suggesting that both MI6 and US security officials had expressed serious concern about the IPO. One unnamed US official reportedly told the Telegraph: “What is the point of the U.S. imposing sanctions on Russia if the Russians can then get round them in Britain?”…
the ease with which such large-scale transactions occur also sends political messages that undermine the Government’s condemnation of what the Prime Minister has called the “well-established pattern of Russian state aggression”, encouraging President Putin and his associates to conclude that the money supporting that aggression is safe and welcome in London…
The use of London as a base for the corrupt assets of Kremlin-connected individuals is now clearly linked to a wider Russian strategy and has implications for our national security. Combating it should be a major UK foreign policy priority. The assets stored and laundered in London both directly and indirectly support President Putin’s campaign to subvert the international rules-based system, undermine our allies, and erode the mutually-reinforcing international networks that support UK foreign policy. The size of London’s financial markets and their importance to Russian investors gives the UK considerable leverage over the Kremlin. But turning a blind eye to London’s role in hiding the proceeds of Kremlin-connected corruption risks signalling that the UK is not serious about confronting the full spectrum of President Putin’s offensive measures.
We call on the Government to investigate the gaps in the sanctions regime that allowed a company such as En+ to float on the London Stock Exchange, and to work with the G7, whose markets dominate the financial world, and other international partners, to close those gaps as soon as possible.
Barker should be under pressure to resign over this scandal but has been let off the hook as ministers and Tory MPs have failed to criticise him. How can the Tories be claiming to take dirty Russian money in London seriously when they stayed silent as one of their own helped float a Putin crony’s company in London?
“It is quite extraordinary” in view of the weight of evidence to continue to deny the “likelihood of Russian involvement” in Salisbury poisoning – Boris Johnson tells #Marr https://t.co/2F6eDpYWeF pic.twitter.com/6efkdkg6gA
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) April 15, 2018
He says the Russians are “demented” for claiming Britain did it…
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) April 15, 2018
Not sure who else he thinks it could’ve been…
He also isn’t convinced the Assad regime was responsible for the Douma gas attack either, saying that Assad “or any other group” that carried it out must be confronted with evidence.
— The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) April 15, 2018
There’s a theme here…
Last month Guido reported on how Russophile former Tory minister Greg Barker was working for Oleg Deripaska as chairman of En+ Group. Well, since then Deripaska was whacked with sanctions by President Trump and accused by the US of “benefiting from the Putin regime and playing a key role in advancing Russia’s malign activities”. Bad news for Barker’s En+, whose shares plummeted 22% on Friday and fell another 17% today.
Barker is one Tory who knows sanctions against Russian wrong ‘uns work…
“Эти инциденты все сильнее и сильнее подрывают доверие к Британии”.
Член парламента Великобритании Крис Уильямсон разоблачает британское правительство в отношении дела Скрипаля.
Видео: ТАСС/Ruptly pic.twitter.com/iv0hGnwUCw
— ТАСС (@tass_agency) April 5, 2018
Chris Williamson’s Russia Today interview is being broadcast on the Russian state news agency TASS this evening, complete with Russian subtitles. He argues the UK government is using the Skripal attack to distract from Brexit, which is literally a Kremlin line to take. Meanwhile Corbyn Twitter outrider Aaron Bastani says it could have been done by Israel:
Is it a full moon?
Got to hand it to this government, who true to form have managed to turn the one positive narrative they’ve had in months into a total omnishambles. This incorrect FCO tweet from two weeks ago claiming Porton Down experts had determined the Novichok was made in Russia has been deleted. Whichever FCO mandarin who tried to disappear this tweet to cover up their incompetence has properly landed everyone else in it.
Screengrab via Paul Waugh
Russia was clearly responsible for the attack on the Skripals – as the Porton Down scientist said yesterday it had to be a state actor – and the intelligence obviously points to Russia. Yet Gary Aitkenhead’s interview was a total PR disaster, giving out the misleading top line that the government can’t be sure it was Russia. Why did the MoD let this broadcast novice in front of the cameras?
Just when May had succeeded in getting the international community on board – one of her best achievements to date – they have conjured doubt where there should be none. Russia is already taking full advantage, gleefully tweeting out the deleted FCO screengrab and making out the British government lied. Corbynistas are echoing the conspiratorial Kremlin line and claiming this proves Seumas and Corbyn were right all along. All the grown ups in Whitehall are on holiday as the UK’s position internationally becomes needlessly undermined. What a mess.
This has to be one of the most major foreign policy coups in years:
- Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats from the US
- Germany and France to deport four Russian diplomats each
- Total of 14 EU Member States agree to expel Russian diplomats
- Ukraine is expelling 13 Russian diplomats
- Czech Republic – 3
- Lithuania – 3
- Latvia – 1
- Poland – 4
One of the biggest wins of the May premiership. And makes a mockery of those claims the UK would be isolated internationally if we voted to Leave the EU. What will all those Boris-haters in the media have to say about this huge FCO diplomatic success?
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) March 22, 2018
“I’m not sure that the language used by some of our ministers is particularly helpful or sensible,” says Jezza. Echoing Ambassador Yakovenko…
Jeremy Corbyn has told Wato: “Would I do business with Putin? Sure.” and repeated his call to give Russia a sample of the Novichok used on the Skripals. He again stopped short of blaming the Kremlin. When Russia say it isn’t their Novichok, is Corbyn going to believe them?
Former Kremlin adviser and all-round nutjob Alexander Nekrassov tells Good Morning Britain “Jeremy Corbyn was right”. He even says there is no evidence the Skripals were even attacked. As if further proof were needed that Jezza and Seumas are Russia’s not-very useful idiots…
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) March 16, 2018
“We think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK.”
Over to you Seumas…
— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) 15 March 2018
Keir Starmer is the most senior Shadow Cabinet minister so far to publicly abandon Jeremy Corbyn over his position on Russia. On Question Time last night Starmer said the attack should be “condemned by all of us without reservation” and that Russia was responsible – “no ifs, no buts”. Starmer strongly backed the government and Theresa May…
Starmer’s intervention followed the publication of an article in the Guardian last night by Jezza in which he doubled down on his previous statements to the Commons. In the piece he again directly refused to blame Russia for the attack. Instead he suggested the government had taken a “McCarthyite” stance. Jezza wrote:
“This horrific event demands first of all the most thorough and painstaking criminal investigation, conducted by our police and security services. To rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police, in a fevered parliamentary atmosphere, serves neither justice nor our national security.”
The article came as a Sky Data poll found just 18% of people thought Corbyn was doing a good job over the Russia crisis. Will this damaging week move the polls?
Seumas Milne defended the Kremlin in his Guardian column after the assassination of a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin which the deceased man’s colleagues and family said was politically motivated. In Feburary 2015 opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered while walking near the Kremlin with his girlfriend. Yeltsin’s former Deputy Prime Minister was shot six times with a 9mm pistol. A month later Milne wrote:
“The Russian president has, of course, been blamed for the killing, though that makes little sense. Nemtsov was a marginal figure whose role in the “catastroika” of the 1990s scarcely endeared him to ordinary Russians. Responsibility for an outrage that exposed the lack of security in the heart of Moscow and was certain to damage the president hardly seems likely to lie with Putin or his supporters.”
This was not the conclusion of the deceased Nemtsov’s colleagues and family. Nemtsov’s friend and fellow opposition activist Leonid Martynyuk said : “I am certain that the Russian government is behind the murder of Nemtsov.” World chess champion and Putin critic Gary Kasparov told reporters: “Putin must be held responsible for the murder of Boris.” Politico, and other international outlets ran pieces carrying claims that the murder was politically motivated.
Last summer five men were jailed for the murder after a controversial trial. The Nemtsov’s family lawyer told journalists:
“We can’t say we’re satisfied with the verdict. We would be happy if the murder hadn’t happened. But the main thing is neither the organisers nor those who ordered [the killing] have been found.”
Whatever happened, when a critic of Putin was shot feet from the Kremlin, Seumas was there to defend Vlad in the British press…
That’s one way of putting it…
Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith was at odds with her leader over his response to Russia’s suspected poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Griffiths told BBC Radio 4:
“We very much accept that what the prime minister said – this is a very sophisticated nerve agent and Russia is responsible for this attack and therefore we’re fully supporting the measures which the government is taking, including the expulsion of 23 diplomats.”
That’s much tougher than Corbyn’s words in the Commons yesterday. Griffith also said of Seumas: “I cannot speak for Seumas Milne. He has to speak for himself.” Griffith and Team Corbyn have a long history of falling out, particularly over NATO and nukes…
Her line and overnight pressure following Milne’s briefing has bounced Corbyn’s office politburo into revising their position. They now say:
“The Government has laid out two alternatives: that Russia is either directly responsible or culpable because it lost control of this nerve agent. Yesterday, we agreed that the evidence overwhelmingly points to those two alternatives. The Russian authorities must be held to account on the basis of the evidence and our response must be both decisive and proportionate.”
Too late, the damage is done…
Theresa May slammed Jeremy Corbyn for his lack of support over the Russian spy poisoning crisis. The Prime Minister told Jezza:
“There is a consensus across the backbenches of this House. I am only sorry that this consesnsus does not go as far as the Right Honourable Gentleman, who could have taken the opportunity as the UK government has done to condemn the cuplability of the Russian state.”
This will lead all the news bulletins tonight, the press will crucify Corbyn tomorrow, his own Labour MPs have disowned him and sided with the PM.[…] Read the rest