WITNEY MP Robert Courts received a donation from the wife of a former Russian finance minister ahead of last year's general election, it has been revealed.

Mr Courts received £3,000 from Lubov Chernukhin, a British citizen of Russian origin, who is also the highest-spending female donor in UK political history.

The donation, registered in February this year, is described in the register of financial interests for MPs as for ‘my 2019 fighting fund’.

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It was not made directly to Mr Courts, but to his local Conservative Association, the branch of the party which operates in West Oxfordshire.

The transaction is entirely legal, but in the wake of a parliamentary report into Russian influence over British politics, Conservative MPs have faced questions about donations they have received from individuals with links to Russia.

Oxford Mail:

The Russia Report, released last week, was originally due to come out at the end of last year, but was delayed until after the December general election.

Mr Courts, when asked to comment on the donation said: “All donations to the local Conservative Association are received in accordance with UK law and registered with the Electoral Commission. This individual is a British citizen and is perfectly entitled to make political donations.”

When asked if he would be interviewed about it, his spokesman declined.

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Mrs Chernukhin, whose name is listed as the diminutive Luba rather than Lubov in the donation to Mr Courts, is a former banker and the wife of Vladimir Chernukhin, once a finance minister to Vladimir Putin.

The Russia Report, a document written by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee and released last week, looked at different ways the Russian state and individuals associated with the country had influence over British politics.

One of the concerns or the report was that ‘several members of the Russian elite who are closely linked to Putin are identified as being involved with charitable and/or political organisations in the UK, having donated to political parties, with a public profile which positions them to assist Russian influence operations’.

Oxford Mail:

Ms Chernukhin has made several notable donations to the Conservative Party in the past.

These have included auction bids totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds at glitzy Conservative Party balls, which have led to playing tennis with Boris Johnson while he was mayor of London, a private meal with education secretary Gavin Williamson and a night out with then-PM Theresa May last year.

Mr Courts is not the only Conservative MP who has received donations from Ms Chernukhin in the last year.

Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnett and now a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, declared a £2,000 from the donor via her local Conservative Association in November last year.

And Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland declared a £10,000 donation from Mrs Chernukhin in March, which he had received via his local Conservative Association in February.

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Mr Lewis was quizzed by the BBC and Sky News on having received donations from Mrs Chernukhin and other Russian-linked backers on Thursday last week.

On Sky News’ Mr Lewis said: “These are British citizens. They are able to vote in the UK, they do vote in the UK and like any other British citizen they have the right to donate to political parties.”

He added they did not ‘expect’ any influence from their donations other than keeping a Conservative government in power.

Senior Tories have received donations from other Russian-born backers, or from companies owned by them.

The Russia Report also looked at links between the Russian state and elections, including the Brexit referendum, as well as the origins of Russian money which had begun flowing through London since the end of the Cold War.

The report did not make any conclusion on whether the Brexit vote had been influenced by Russian actions, but it did suggest a series of changes to the law to bolster the UK against influence from Russia.