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UK newspaper Baron Lebedev denies being ‘some agent of Russia’

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The owner of London’s Evening Standard newspaper on Friday denied he was a security risk, after claims resurfaced about his relationship with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has revived questions about Johnson’s appointment of Evgeny Lebedev to be a life member of Britain’s unelected House of Lords.


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Questions have been asked in particular about why Johnson attended a party at Lebedev’s Italian villa when he was foreign secretary in April 2018, without a security detail.

Russian-British dual national Lebedev has refused to comment on claims that Johnson helped force through the appointment, despite reported security service misgivings.

But Lebedev, who also owns Britain’s Independent title, said he had been left no choice to speak out as “credible media outfits” were reporting the claims, which he described as outlandish.

Lebedev, known in the Lords as “Baron Lebedev, of Hampton in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and of Siberia in the Russian Federation,” said he was a “proud British citizen” who considers the country his home.

“At the moment many with Russian roots are under scrutiny, including myself,” he wrote in the Standard.

“I understand the reason for this as it is inevitable when events of such magnitude occur and the world order as we have known it in recent decades suddenly gets torn up.”

“But I am not a security risk to this country, which I love.”

“My father a long time ago was a foreign intelligence agent of the KGB, but I am not some agent of Russia.”

Lebedev pointed to his paper’s coverage of Russia’s invasion as proof of his opposition to the war. Last week he called on Putin to withdraw troops.

He also defended his father, Alexander, as a Kremlin critic who has fought against corruption, and said his family were long-standing proponents of press freedom.

Johnson, under pressure to reveal the extent of Russian donations to his ruling Conservative party, has sanctioned seven oligarchs he said were among Putin’s inner circle.

They include the Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.

Lebedev, however, said having a Russian name or holding Russian citizenship “does not automatically make one an enemy of the state.” “It is crucial we do not descend into Russophobia,” he added.

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