Lebedev says he is ‘not some agent of Russia’ amid peerage scrutiny

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Evgeny Lebedev has said he is “not some agent of Russia” after allegations surfaced that a security services assessment saying the media mogul posed a national security risk was withdrawn after Boris Johnson intervened.

The peer acknowledged on Friday that his father, the Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, was “a long time ago” a KGB officer but denied being “a security risk to this country”.

Lord Lebedev’s statement to his Evening Standard website came amid questions over his peerages and as the UK hits Kremlin-supporting oligarchs with sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Lord Lebedev has appealed to Vladimir Putin to stop the invasion of Ukraine through the Evening Standard newspaper (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee to investigate the “matter of national security”.

Lord Lebedev wrote: “At the moment many with Russian roots are under scrutiny, including myself.

“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.

“I may have a Russian name but that makes me no less a committed or proud British citizen than anyone else in this country of ours.

“Being Russian does not automatically make one an enemy of the state, and it is crucial we do not descend into Russiaphobia, like any other phobia, bigotry or discrimination.”

The crossbench peer pointed to his use of the Standard’s front page on which he appealed last week for Vladimir Putin to end his invasion to show he is a critic of the war.

He said he was publishing his latest “statement from the proprietor” because “accusations are coming from credible media outfits who are posing incredible questions to me so I feel I have no option but to respond”.

The Prime Minister said it would “obviously be extraordinary” if the security services had deemed Lord Lebedev a risk and the Prime Minister had intervened to ensure the peerage was granted.

But, asked about the allegations on Monday, Mr Johnson told reporters: “That is simply incorrect… It suits Putin’s agenda to try to characterise this as a struggle between the West and Russia.

“It suits his agenda to say that the UK, that we in Nato countries, are anti-Russia, European countries are now anti-Russian.

“It’s very, very, very important that we get the message over that we’re not anti-Russian, we’re not against Russians.

“Our quarrel is simply with the regime and the aggression of Vladimir Putin.”

However, Mr Johnson sidestepped a question about whether he met Lord Lebedev in March 2020, at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, to discuss the peerage.

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