Johnson says no government business discussed at meeting with ex-KGB spy



BORIS Johnson has confirmed he met ex-KGB agent Alexander Lebedev at the height of the Salisbury poisoning scandal.

In a letter to the Commons Liaison Committee, the Prime Minister said the contact in April 2018, when he was Foreign Secretary, was not pre-arranged.

He also said, that as far as he was aware, the two men did not discuss government business. 

Last month was the first time that Mr Johnson admitted to meeting the Russian oligarch while at a party hosted by his son, Evgeny, the owner of the Evening Standard. 

In his letter, Mr Johnson also said there was nothing untoward in his meeting with the ex-Russian spy without Foreign Office officials. 

The two men spoke after a Nato summit on how to respond to the Kremlin following the chemical attack on British soil. 

Labour has described the circumstances around the meeting as “murky.”

In his letter, the Prime Minister said: “In April 2018, I attended a social event at the house of Evgeny Lebedev in Italy.

“In the interests of transparency, I declared the overnight state and the ministerial returns, which can be found on gov.uk.

“At this social event, I also met Evgeny Lebedev’s father.

“This was not a formal meeting, nor something that was pre-arranged.

“Officials were aware in advance that I was attending the social event. Contrary to some reports, my visit was in line with established security protocols under successive foreign secretaries.

“It would not have been normal practice for civil servants or security staff to have accompanied me to such a private social occasion. 

“I did not take ministerial papers with me. If a minister meets an external organisation or individual and finds themselves discussing official business without an official present, for example, at a social occasion, any significant content should be passed back to the department after the event. 

“That was not necessary in this case. As far as I’m aware, no government business was discussed.”

The younger Mr Lebedev now sits in the House of Lords after being ennobled by Mr Johnson. 

His appointment is being probed by the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee, following a report in The Sunday Times that the peerage was allegedly granted despite a warning from security services that it posed a national security risk. Mr Johnson is said to have intervened. 

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday last month, Yvette Cooper the shadow home secretary said: “We don’t know what happened at this meeting, we don’t know even whether the Prime Minister actually declared the meeting properly or told officials about it afterwards.

“It just feels unthinkable that at a time when we had a chemical attack on UK soil, and it was so serious that we had a Nato meeting about it, about how to respond to Russia, at that time you can have a foreign secretary who would then just go and have a meeting with an ex-KGB agent, someone who has since been sanctioned by Canada for close links to Putin.

“To have that meeting at that time shows a careless disregard for national security risks. We actually need to know the facts about what happened and why on earth he was so irresponsible with our national security at that time.”

 





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