‘Buried’ probe into Russian meddling in UK ‘contains references to spies fears that Boris Johnson could be blackmailed
- The Prime Minister has faced a torrent of criticism after blocking the publication
- Ministers insist that the usual processes are being followed but critics have accused them of a ‘cover up’
- One witness, claimed to friends that he believes Johnson was ‘compromised’
The intrigue over a ‘buried’ probe into Russian spying deepened last night amid claims in security circles that it contains references to blackmail fears concerning Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister has faced a torrent of criticism after blocking the publication of a report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee into Russian malfeasance and the British electoral system until after December’s Election.
Ministers insist that the usual processes are being followed but critics have accused them of a ‘cover up’ by sitting on the report, simply titled ‘Russia’.
Security sources have claimed that the secret committee took evidence regarding Mr Johnson’s relationship with a prominent Russian businessman, although it is not clear whether that testimony made it into the final report.
The Prime Minister has faced a torrent of criticism after blocking the publication of a report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee into Russian malfeasance and the British electoral system until after December’s Election
One expert witness, who gave evidence to the ISC inquiry, has claimed privately to friends that he believes Boris Johnson was ‘compromised’ by a Russian businessman on a foreign trip in 2016 – something No 10 dismisses out of hand.
The heavily redacted report is understood to have concluded that Russia’s influence reaches deep into the British establishment because successive British governments have failed to tackle the problem.
The ISC was told that, over decades, Moscow has built up a network of ‘friendly’ British diplomats, lawyers and parliamentarians which poses a ‘significant threat to the UK’s institutions and ways of life’.
Committee chairman Dominic Grieve, who faces an uphill battle to return to the Commons after being deselected by the Tories, told the MoS he feared the report would never see the light of day.
But asked whether he was aware of Russians mounting so-called ‘kompromat’ blackmail and espionage operations, he said he was ‘well aware’ of such claims.
He said: ‘The report does cover the full range of Russian activity – espionage, subversion and the threat from Putin to Russian exiles who are living in the UK.’
He added: ‘What is the challenge posed by Russia and what is the response the UK is mounting? Is it an appropriate response and should we be doing more?’
However, he refused to comment further or say whether the unpublished report contained any lurid details.
Another source familiar with the contents of the report told The Mail on Sunday that they did not recall seeing any reference to Mr Johnson and an alleged Russian associate.
Committee chairman Dominic Grieve (pictured), who faces an uphill battle to return to the Commons after being deselected by the Tories, told the MoS he feared the report would never see the light of day
Among those invited by Mr Grieve to give evidence to the ISC was businessman Bill Browder, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In written testimony, Mr Browder alleged that Putin used the proceeds of illegal asset seizures and money from corrupt sources to develop a network of well-connected British figures, enabling the Kremlin ‘to infiltrate UK society and to conceal the underlying Russian controllers and their agendas’.
The Government refuses to comment on national security matters but Whitehall insiders have conceded that large parts of the report have been redacted for reasons of secrecy.
There are fears in Downing Street that the extent of the blacked-out sections of the report will fuel conspiracy theories regarding a ‘smoking gun’ that undermines the credibility of the 2016 Brexit referendum, despite Government sources insisting there is no such evidence.
But Mr Grieve has accused the Prime Minister of squashing the report and claimed Downing Street had given ‘bogus’ explanations for not publishing it.
The committee, whose nine members are bound by the Official Secrets Act, completed their investigation in March and submitted their report to Downing Street for approval in October after a lengthy period of clearance by the security services.
Downing Street denies that the failure to publish the report before the General Election is politically motivated.