Russian foreign intelligence seeks to exert pressure on British politics. The tasks are to buypoliticians to get confidential information on government policy, and discredit the government to call for snap elections. It is unlikely that Russia is eager to put its henchman as British Prime Minister. They are more interested in roiling the country to trigger deep political crisis, with government resigned. We also believe that an attempt to infiltrate the Conservative Party and its funding does not indicate the Kremlin has taken a bet on this political force.The Observer published an article that referred to Nalobin’s interest in the rivalry between David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
There’s a good chance that several political forces get such proposals simultaneously, off the record.
The Russian media keep calling for a strike on the UK with increasing frequency. This is due to London’s policy of securing military and political support for Ukraine, and traditional anti-British rhetoric by Moscow since the Cold War and Stalin era.
That is probably related to the Kremlin’s choice of a key adversary – the Anglo-Saxon world. Moscow’s propaganda claims Great Britain and the United States symbolize the West, with the state policy defining them as the key opponents and main threat to the Soviet Union for more than 70 years.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has been accused of deploying more intelligence agents in London than at the height of the Cold War.
A diplomat stationed at the embassy of the Russian Federation in London proposed to channel Russian funds to the British Conservative Party, according to a formal complaint made by a Conservative Party activist. The information was reportedly disregarded by Britain’s counterintelligence agency, the Security Service (MI5), and has now been filed as a complaint with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). Established in 2000, the IPT is an independent judicial body that handles public complaints about the British intelligence services.
The source of the complaint is Sergei Cristo, a former reporter with the World Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and longtime Conservative Party organizer. Cristo’s allegations center on the Conservative Friends of Russia (CFR), a high-profile lobby group founded by prominent Conservative Party parliamentarians, including Nigel Evans, Andrew Rosindell, John Whittingdale and Robert Buckland. The CFR’s first honorary president was Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who served as Foreign Secretary under Conservative Prime Minister John Major.
The founding of CFR in 2012 was celebrated at a lavish outdoor reception hosted by the Russian Ambassador to London, Alexander Yakovenko. It was followed by an all-expenses-paid trip to Russia, organized by the Russian embassy, for a group of select CFR members. Moscow traditionally organizes such trips to make business and political elite feel more pro-Russian, and have an opportunity to study the delegates more thoroughly and recruit them. The Kremlin was extremely active in organizing such visits for the German elite via military and political intelligence channels.
Among them were prominent Euroskeptics, who later became leading figures in the campaign that resulted in Britain’s exit from the European Union. A few years later, the group was renamed the Westminster Russia Forum (WRF). In 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the WRF disbanded altogether.
During the CFR’s early days, Cristo says he was approached by Sergey Nalobin, first secretary of the Russian embassy’s political section. Nalobin, according to our information, is Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service officer with diplomatic cover.
According to Cristo, Nalobin was interested in Cristo’s role as a volunteer in the finance department of the Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ). Known also as the Conservative Central Office, the CCHQ operates as the head office of the British Conservative Party. Cristo claims that Nalobin told him of his intention to introduce CCHQ officials to “Russian companies who would donate money to the Conservative party” —a proposition that was illegal under British law.
Nalobin’s father is an ex-KGB general, he retired as the FSB officer. Nalobin’s brother, Viktor, currently works for the FSB. Nalobin, however, works for Russian foreign intelligence as well, as this cover post is commonly used for the FSB officers, some Moscow-based sources claim.
The noteworthy fact is that Britain’s Minister of State for Security already said in 2019 the Conservative Party has not funded its election campaign with Russian money. The reason for this was The Sunday Times article on nine Russians donating to the Tory.
The report by the Intelligence and Security Committee of the British Parliament mentions Alexander Temerko, the former senior executive of Russian oil giant Yukos, who donated more than £1.2 million ($1.25 million) to the Conservatives. It also mentions the son of Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev (affiliated with Russian intelligence), Evgeny, who owns Lebedev Holdings Ltd, which in turn owns the Evening Standard and ESTV (London Live). He is also an investor in The Independent.
In 2012 – or possibly earlier – Matthew Elliott, a political strategist who had registered Vote Leave Ltd at Companies House was targeted by Sergey Nalobin. When Elliott met him – a man who, according to a Daily Telegraph report, “was tasked with building relations with MPs [and] a regular fixture on the Westminster drinks circuit and at political party conferences”.
Nalobin was also a man who, in August 2015, had his permission to stay in Britain suddenly revoked. The Home Office refused to renew the visas of four Russian diplomats, normally a rubber-stamping exercise, Nalobin among them. The timing was not a coincidence: a week earlier, the inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko concluded he was “probably murdered on the personal orders of Putin”.
It is a fact, therefore, that Russia is making attempts to affect and corrupt British politics, in line with its common practice of election meddling in the US, France, Germany and other NATO members.