From Jason Groves at the Daily Mail
David Cameron was under pressure to hand back a £160,000 donation from the wife of a Russian oligarch last night, following his call for sanctions over the fate of flight MH17.
Tory sources last night indicated the party intends to keep the donation, which was made earlier this month by banker Lubov Chernukhin in return for the chance to play the ‘ultimate tennis match’ against Mr Cameron and the London Mayor Boris Johnson.
The donor is married to billionaire oligarch Vladimir Chernukhin, who was Russia’s deputy finance minister during Vladimir Putin’s first term as Russian President.
Mr Chernukhin was also a director of Russia’s national airline Aeroflot and is a former chairman of the country’s state development bank. He received Russia’s Order of Honour from Mr Putin a decade ago.
Former Tory Treasurer Lord Ashcroft last night questioned whether the party should still be accepting Russian money. In a message on Twitter he said: ‘Should the Tory Party suspend taking donations from companies owned by Russians?’
Labour MP John Mann said Mr Cameron should ‘put his money where his mouth is’, return the money to Mrs Chernukhin and cancel the tennis match.
Mr Mann said: ‘He has got to hand the money back – it is one of the easiest sanctions that can be imposed.
‘I am sure the Prime Minister will recognise he cannot accept this money – he cannot possibly be seen to be consorting on a tennis court with individuals who have been part of Putin’s inner circle, and he should not be taking their money.
‘After all that he has said it would be truly shocking if Mr Cameron and Boris Johnson kept this money for the Tory Party.’
Commons Speaker John Bercow also appeared to allude to the row yesterday during Mr Cameron’s statement to MPs on the MH17 crisis. In a comment that annoyed Tory MPs, Mr Bercow drew attention to the ‘frequency of the Prime Minister’s tennis playing’.
The tennis match was auctioned off at a lavish Tory fundraising dinner at London’s plush Hurlingham Club earlier this month, which was attended by the Chernukhins.
According to Electoral Commission records Mrs Chernukhin was once declared an ‘impermissible’ donor when she tried to give the Tories £10,000 in April 2012.
This means that at the time she did not meet the criteria required to make a donation to a British political party.
A leaked list from last year’s Tory summer ball revealed it was attended by a number of wealthy Russians.
These included Vasily Shestakov, an MP in Russia’s parliament who is an old friend of President Putin and his long-term judo partner. He co-wrote several books on the sport with the Russian President including Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin.
Also present were billionaire banker Andrei Borodin and his model wife Tatanya Korsakova, owners of Britain’s most expensive home, the £140 million Park Place, near Henley-on-Thames
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