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Michael Gove: No security concerns were shared with me about Evgeny Lebedev

The Communities Secretary told the BBC he knew nothing of any fears about the Russia-born lord whose father was a KGB agent.

13 March 2022

Michael Gove has defended Russian-born businessman Evgeny Lebedev’s appointment to the House of Lords.

The Communities Secretary said there was a “distinction to be drawn” between Lord Lebedev and his ex-KGB father, the oligarch Alexander Lebedev.

Mr Gove also said that no-one had “ever said to me that there are any specific security concerns” about the peer’s appointment to the upper house of Parliament in 2020.

But Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said the Prime Minister had “serious questions” to answer in light of a Sunday Times report that the head of MI6 held security concerns over the appointment.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Media mogul Lord Evgeny Lebedevis the son of a former KBG agent (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Lord Lebedev acknowledged on Friday that his father, the Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, was “a long time ago” a KGB officer but denied being “a security risk to this country”.

Asked about the matter, Mr Gove told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “I think there is a distinction to be drawn between the actions of parents and the actions of children.”

He added: “Again, I think it’s important to draw a distinction between Evgeny Lebedev’s father, who obviously, as you pointed out, worked for the KGB, and Lord Lebedev himself, who is someone who has made his home in this country.

“Of course, there are questions that are going to be asked, but no-one has ever said to me that there are any specific security concerns that they have about Lord Lebedev.”

Asked if Boris Johnson had “behaved a bit foolishly”, following reports he was warned about granting a peerage to his close friend, Lord Lebedev, by British intelligence, Mr Gove said: “No, I don’t think so.”

He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I’ve met Lord Lebedev, as the Prime Minister has. At no point did anyone ever say to me that it would be inappropriate to meet him and to talk to him.”

But Sir Keir called for a “process” to take place, looking into how the peerage was granted.

He said: “Let’s have a process to look into what actually happened, what did the Prime Minister know and what did he do in response to that. I think that is the least we are entitled to in relation to this appointment.”

Speaking to Sky News’, Sir Keir said: “Of course, we shouldn’t just demonise people from Russia, I completely agree with that, but that isn’t the Lebedev case.

“The media today are saying there were further reservations by the security and intelligence services which were known before this appointment was made and we know that concerns were raised apparently with the Prime Minister.

“In light of the further revelations today, I think the Prime Minister has got serious questions to answer: What did he know? And did he override security advice?”

Lord Lebedev, who owns the Independent and Evening Standard newspapers, has previously said in a statement on the Evening Standard website: “I am not a security risk to this country, which I love.

“My father a long time ago was a foreign intelligence agent of the KGB, but I am not some agent of Russia.”

The Moscow-born media mogul has long held ties to the British establishment. In addition to the Prime Minister, Lord Lededev has long-standing friendships with A-list celebrities in the UK.

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