Boris Johnson admits having a private meeting with a former KGB agent | Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson first admitted he met former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev at an Italian palace with no officials present in April 2018 when he was foreign minister.
The Prime Minister told MPs he had ‘certainly met’ Lebedev, also the former owner of the Independent, and acknowledged the meeting had been in private and, after a pause, said the meeting had taken place “in Italy as it happens”.
In fact, Johnson had visited a restored castle in Perugia owned by Evgeny Lebedev, Alexander’s son, in April 2018 for a celebratory weekend immediately after attending a meeting of foreign ministers from the United States. NATO in Brussels who discussed the security situation with Russia.
Johnson was answering questions from Labour’s Meg Hillier at the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday. When asked if he had reported the party meeting to Foreign Ministry officials, he added: “I think I mentioned it, yes.”
A record of the trip was originally disclosed by Johnson in the Members’ Register of Interests, which stated that he spent a “night” with Evgeny Lebedev on Saturday, April 28, traveling “accompanied by a spouse, a member of family or a friend”.
At first, Johnson repeatedly declined to explain the nature of the trip, in response to questions from The Guardian, and whether he had taken his official security team with him. No mention was made of meeting Alexander in the disclosure.
Shortly after, a photo emerged of Johnson at a nearby airport in Italy the following Sunday. Other passengers at the airport said the then-foreign secretary looked ‘like he slept in his clothes’, struggling to walk in a straight line and telling other passengers he had had a difficult night.
Several months later, the Observer revealed that Johnson had met Alexander Lebedev on the party trip – a meeting confirmed not by the politician but by a spokesperson for the media owner.
” He’s going there [Italy] often stay with her son. He is often in Europe and has met just about all of Eugeny’s friends here over the years. So there is nothing particularly unusual about this meeting,” Lebedev’s spokesman said at the time.
At the end of the Cold War, Alexander Lebedev was assigned as a spy in London in 1988. After the fall of the Soviet Union, he went into business, especially in the media, and he never sought to hide his past from the KGB. In a memoir, Hunt the Banker, Lebedev briefly recounts his espionage career, which ended in 1992 at the rank of colonel.
Last month, Alexander Lebedev was placed under economic sanctions by Canada for “directly enabling” Russia’s war in Ukraine, prompting him to resign from a directorship of a company linked to the Independent. It has not been sanctioned by the UK or any other major country.
Johnson’s relationship with Evgeny has also come under scrutiny. The House Intelligence and Security Committee is investigating Johnson’s appointment of Evgeny to a peerage despite initial concerns raised by MI5 over his father’s previous employment with the KGB.