Boris Johnson admits meeting former KGB officer Alexander Lebedev without officials present

Boris Johnson has admitted meeting a former KGB officer without officials present while foreign secretary.

The Prime Minister said he “certainly” met the former Evening Standard proprietor, an ex-KGB officer, in Italy, after being asked to confirm details of previous encounters while attending the Commons liaison committee on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson had previously avoided answering the question, but has now finally admitted the meeting took place.

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It comes amid an investigation by the Commons intelligence and security committee over the appointment of Mr Lebedev’s son, Evgeny Lebedev, to the House of Lords.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson appearing in front of the Liaison Committee in the House of Commons, London, on the subject of the work of the Prime Minister. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022.

The appointment has been shrouded in controversy after The Sunday Times alleged security services withdrew an assessment that granting the peerage posed a national security risk after the Prime Minister intervened.

Asked by Labour’s Dame Diana Johnson if he met with Alexander Lebedev without officials on April 28, 2018, Mr Johnson replied: “I certainly have met the gentleman in question who used to be the proprietor of the London Evening Standard when I was mayor of London.

“I certainly am not going to deny having met Alexander Lebedev, I certainly have.

“I have certainly met him without officials.

“I met him on a very few occasions.

“On the occasion you are mentioning, if that was when I was foreign secretary, then yes.”

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Mr Johnson said he reported to officials that he met Mr Lebedev.

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It came on a day that saw 14 ministers resign as Mr Johnson haemorrhaged support on Wednesday, leaving his position as Prime Minister in grave doubt.

The Prime Minister refused to deny during the committee that Cabinet minister Michael Gove had privately told Mr Johnson it was time for him to go.

Mr Johnson did not deny that report when questioned by MPs, but said “of course” he would still be Prime Minister on Thursday.

Labour MP Darren Jones asked: “How’s your week going?”

Mr Johnson replied, suppressing a smile: “Terrific, like many others.”

But the Prime Minister declined to be drawn on suggestions levelling-up secretary Michael Gove asked him to resign on Wednesday morning.

“I’m here to talk about what the Government is doing,” Mr Johnson said.

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“I’m not going to give a running commentary on politic events.”

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