Business of man named in Russian interference report donating to Cairns and other Welsh Tories
A company co-directed by a businessman named in connection with a new intelligence report on Russian interference in UK politics has been donating money to help the Conservatives hold some of their most marginal constituencies in Wales.
Alexander Temerko, who worked at Russia’s defence ministry in the 1990s, was named by the Sunday Times in connection with a UK Parliament report which has been suppressed by Downing Street.
Critics have argued that the Conservative government is “sitting on the report” because of fears it could damage its prospects at the polls.
It is understood the document details efforts from Russia to interfere in British elections and referendums, but concludes those efforts were unsuccessful. The report names nine Russian donors to the Conservative party.
Temerko, who is now one of three directors at Aquind Ltd, has become one of the UK’s biggest financial donors since obtaining British citizenship in 2011, gifting more than a £1.2 million to the Conservative party.
Alun Cairns, Simon Hart and Guto Bebb, whose seats are targets for Labour, have received a combined £37,065 from Aquind Ltd and Temerko this year, figures from the Electoral Commission and MPs’ register of interest show.
Cairns, who is seeking re-election in the Vale of Glamorgan despite being forced to resign as Secretary of State for Wales, received a donation of “£5,000 to my campaign fund” from Aquind Ltd in June.
Hart, the incumbent in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, received a personal donation of £2,000 from Temerko in February followed by £22,565 from Aquind Ltd in the form a winning auction bid in March.
Bebb is not re-standing in Aberconwy after losing the party whip over Brexit but was a Conservative when he received a £7,500 donation from Aquind Ltd in August.
All three MPs who have received cash from Aquind Ltd have previously received money directly from Temerko. He personally donated a combined £33,332 to Cairns, Hart and Bebb between 2014 and 2018.
Labour needs just a 1% swing to take Aberconwy, 2% in the Vale of Glamorgan and 3% in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.
But Temerko’s donations over those four years are less than the total donated to the trio by him and Aquind Ltd in 2019.
The man taking a keen interest in Welsh Conservative marginals states on his own website that he was in 1991 “invited to join the Defence and Security Committee as a member of the management board responsible for the formation of the new Russian military forces”.
Afterwards, he was the head of Russia’s state arms company, Russkoye Oruzhie, before going on to deputy chairman at Russian oil company, Yukos.
Temerko moved to Britain in 2005. The High Court refused an extradition request from Russia on fraud charges and he was granted citizenship in 2011.
A year later, Temerko made the first of 69 donations to the Conservative party. He is now a member of its Leader’s Group, which entitles him to dinners with the Prime Minister and Cabinet members in exchange for a £50,000 membership fee.
He is one of a number of Russian donors to the Conservative party who have stepped up their contributions recently, according to a new investigation by the Open Democracy website.
They found the Conservatives received £489,850 from Russian donors between November 2018 and October 2019, compared to under £350,000 in the previous year.
The findings came as the Government refused to publish a report into Russian interference in UK politics.
Despite his history of dissidence, Temerko recently told Reuters that the head of Russia’s security council and former chief of the country’s FSB security service was a “decent family man” with whom “there is much more positive than negative about him.”
A series of interviews with Reuters also revealed his pro-Brexit sympathies.
He publicly supported Remain in the 2016 EU referendum but told the news agency that the Leave vote was “a revolution against bureaucracy”.
Temerko was the director of the OGN Group, which built rigs for offshore oil and gas drilling, until 2017 when the company went into administration. His new firm, Aquind Ltd, is building an electricity interconnector between the UK and France.
The Conservative Party and Aquind Ltd. were contacted for comment but have not replied.