Government 'enraged' as Liz Truss reveals on Instagram £135,000 dinner with former Putin ally's wife
PUBLISHED: 12:43 01 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:47 03 June 2019
The wife of a former Putin ally who donated thousands to a Norfolk MP was photographed at a dinner with the prime minister - in a picture shared by another county politician.
Banker Lubov Chernukhin was entertained by Theresa May after donating £135,000 at a Tory fundraiser - despite the prime minister pledging to crack down on Russian influence after the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
A photo of the group in a five star hotel in Belgravia was shared by chief secretary to the treasury and South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss on Monday.
The Instagram post shows Mrs Chernukhin shoulder to shoulder with Mrs May, who is alongside Ms Truss, Andrea Leadsom, Amber Rudd, Caroline Nokes, Karen Bradley and Baroness Evans.
Ms Truss captioned the post: "And it's ladies night, #cabinetandfriends, #girlpower."
Politico reported senior government sources "could not contain their rage" over the photo.
One sent a text message to the news site which said: "This just shows how desperately poor her judgement is. Already overheard b*tching about colleagues, she's now dropped them in it for the sake of a few likes on Instagram. One female MP told me tonight that 'This is why she'll have three supporters come election time.'"
Ms Truss has been approached for comment.
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Mrs Chernukhin is married to Vladimir Chernukhin, a former deputy finance minister under Mr Putin in the early 2000s, who fell out with the president after being dismissed from his job in charge of a state-run bank.
MORE: Russian donations, fact-finding missions, and tickets to Wimbledon - what are Norfolk MPs receiving from supporters and firmsThe couple moved to London and Mrs Chernukhin is a British citizen.
But it is understood her donations to the Tories in the last seven years have now topped £1 million, raising fresh concerns over the party's links to Russia.
This included £5,500 since March last year to Great Yarmouth MP and Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis - plus an extra £4,000 from her as the winning bid for a raffle prize at a fundraising event.
Mrs Chernukhin was also entertained by former prime minister David Cameron and Boris Johnson five years ago, after bidding £160,000 in an auction.
And she shelled out £30,000 to have dinner with defence secretary Gavin Williamson in the Churchill War Rooms in Whitehall last year.
Electoral Commission records show she has made 34 donations to the party in the last seven years, 32 of which have been accepted.
However, an attempted cash donation of £10,000 was rejected and marked "impermissible donor" in 2012.
A Conservative spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. The Tories have previously defended taking money from Mrs Chernukhin and there is no suggestion that Mr and Mrs Chernukhin's wealth is illegitimate.