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Tory cabinet minister: Donors with Russia links ‘acceptable’

CABINET minister Brandon Lewis has defended accepting cash from wealthy donors with links to Russia and Vladimir Putin — insisting the benefactors are ‘British citizens’.

The Northern Ireland secretary and ex-Tory party chairman (pictured) said donations were ‘properly declared’ and he would ‘absolutely defend’ the right of British citizens to play their part in democracy.

A damning report about Russian interference in UK politics was published this week by the Intelligence and Security Committee.

The Times then revealed that 14 Tory ministers, and two members of the ISC itself, had taken donations from figures linked to Russia. Mr Lewis was said to have received £25,000 from Lubov Chernukhin, a banker and the wife of Mr Putin’s former deputy finance minister.

He was also reportedly paid £23,000 by Alexander Temerko, an ex-boss of a Russian arms company who is said to have paid £160,000 at a 2014 Conservative fundraiser to play tennis with Boris Johnson.

Labour’s Chris Bryant called for ministers to stop taking donations from ‘dodgy Russian oligarchs’ who are given ‘golden’ UK visas and allowed to conceal their ownership of businesses here.

Sir Keir: Anti-Semitism damages the right thing to do

SIR Keir Starmer has insisted he wants to ‘draw a line’ under anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. His comments came after Labour said it will pay ‘substantial damages’ to whistleblowers who contributed to a BBC exposé. He said: ‘It was the right decision, the right thing to do.’ The decision to pay damages sparked a spat between Sir Keir and his predecessor as leader Jeremy Corbyn, who claimed it was a ‘political decision, not a legal one’.