Labour calls for investigation into Boris Johnson’s private meeting with ex-KGB agent Alexander Lebedev

<span>Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty</span>
Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty

Labour has called for an urgent Cabinet Office investigation into Boris Johnson’s meeting with an ex-KGB agent two days after attending a high-level Nato summit that focused on Russia.

The deputy leader Angela Rayner and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper have written to the newly appointed chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Kit Malthouse, to demand a full investigation into a matter they say exhibits a “shocking disregard for national security”. They warn that if Johnson is found to have breached national security, he must leave Downing Street immediately and “face the full consequences of the law”.

The Observer revealed in 2019 that Johnson had met former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev at an Italian palazzo without officials or security present in April 2018, when he was foreign secretary. But it was not until last Wednesday, the day before he resigned as prime minister, that Johnson finally admitted it had happened. Johnson met Lebedev during a weekend-long party at a castle in Perugia owned by Evgeny Lebedev, Alexander’s son, immediately after attending a Nato foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels scheduled at the height of the Salisbury poisoning crisis.

Labour’s letter to Malthouse calls for a full investigation into the “extent of the security risks and the potential disclosure of sensitive information”.

It also seeks disclosure of the assessment made by the intelligence agencies of the national security implications of the meeting “including whether Johnson took any papers from the Nato meeting [and] the possible compromising of his phone”.

There have been claims that Lebedev Sr sought to arrange a private phone call between Johnson and the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, during the party, though Lebedev last week denied the allegation.

Challenged on Thursday by Labour’s Chris Bryant that Johnson had not said anything about notifying officials of the meeting, Foreign Office minister Vicky Ford said she understood that he had reported it. A few minutes later, she said: “I have just been passed a note: apparently the prime minister says he thinks he mentioned this meeting to officials.”

Evgeny Lebedev
MPs are investigating Johnson’s 2020 award of a peerage to Evgeny Lebedev granted despite an assessment it posed a national security risk. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Rayner said it was essential that it was clarified whether such a sensitive and potentially compromising meeting was properly declared. “We must get to the facts in this murky affair. Either the Foreign Office minister misled Parliament by suggesting that officials were informed or the prime minister carried out a personal meeting with a former Russian spy directly after discussing issues of British national security at a Nato summit without informing anyone that it had happened,” said Rayner.

She added: “We can have no more concealment. This murky affair has been covered up for too long already.”

MPs are investigating Johnson’s 2020 award of a peerage to Evgeny Lebedev since allegations emerged that it was granted despite an assessment that it posed a national security risk.

Rayner added, referring to Lebedev Sr: “Johnson can no longer cover up his friendship with this former KGB agent with Kremlin links, a man now sanctioned by Canada, with investments in Crimea. Yet the prime minister accepted thousands of pounds in gifts and made his son a lord in our parliament.”