Lubov Chernukhin: Wife of former Putin ally has dinner with prime minister

1 May 2019, 09:34 | Updated: 1 May 2019, 11:19

Theresa May and six of her Cabinet ministers have had dinner with the wife of a former Putin ally - with a minister revealing it on her Instagram.

Banker Lubov Chernukhin was entertained by the prime minister after donating £135,000 at a Conservative fundraiser.

The Conservatives have previously faced criticism for their acceptance of donations from Mrs Chernukhin, who lives in London and is a British citizen.

The party was accused of "sheer hypocrisy" earlier this year after it was revealed they accepted £50,000 from Mrs Chernukhin - on the same day Mrs May pointed the finger at Russia over the Salisbury spy poisoning.

A Tory spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment, but the party has defended taking money from Mrs Chernukhin in the past and there is no suggestion the couple's wealth is illegitimate.

News of the dinner at a five star hotel in Belgravia emerged when Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, posted a photo of the group on Instagram.

It was accompanied by the caption: "And it's ladies night...#cabinetandfriends #girlpower."

Mrs Chernukhin is pictured standing to Mrs May's left.

Ms Truss, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, immigration minister Caroline Nokes, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Lords Leader Baroness Evans are also pictured.

Mrs Chernukhin is married to Vladimir Chernukhin, who was deputy finance minister under Vladimir Putin in the early 2000s before being appointed chairman of a state-owned bank.

However, he is said to have later fallen out of favour with the Russian president for his loyalty to Mikhail Kasyanov, a critic of Mr Putin, and been dismissed from his role, leading the couple to settle in Britain.

It is understood that Mrs Chernukhin's donations to the Tories in the last seven years have now topped £1m, with this latest disclosure likely to prompt fresh criticism.

She has made 34 donations to the party, 32 of which have been accepted, Electoral Commission records show.

An attempted cash donation of £10,000 was rejected and marked "Impermissible Donor" in 2012.

She once successfully bid £160,000 at a Tory fundraiser to play tennis with David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

Mrs Chernukhin also paid £30,000 to have dinner with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson in the Churchill War Rooms in Whitehall last year.

Mr Johnson defended that tennis match in the wake of the Salisbury attack, warning against creating a "miasma of suspicion" against all Russians.