As a prominent figure in David Cameron’s so-called “chumocracy” government, former Conservative MP Greg Barker was at the heart of attempts to broaden the Conservative Party’s appeal to ordinary voters. During his spell as Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change in the coalition government, Mr Barker played a key role in helping Mr Cameron fulfil his pledge to make his government the “greenest ever”.
It was, moreover, in recognition of Mr Barker’s commitment to the Cameron cause that he was awarded a peerage when he ended his climate change brief, assuming the title Lord Barker of Battle in recognition of the East Sussex constituency he had served as an MP. It was also during this period that, thanks to Mr Cameron’s completely relaxed attitude to the activities of a number of prominent Russian oligarchs in Britain, our capital city acquired the unwelcome sobriquet Londongrad – a reference to the vast amounts of Russian business activity taking place in the city.
Consequently, given Lord Barker’s close association with the Cameron era, it should come as no surprise that he now occupies a prominent position with a Russian energy company linked to a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As The Sunday Telegraph revealed at the weekend, Lord Barker was paid £6 million last year for his role as executive chairman of EN+, a Russian energy company in which Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire oligarch and close associate of the Russian president, has a 35 per cent stake.
Nor is Mr Deripaska any ordinary oligarch. A recently published report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee has accused him of acting as “a proxy for the Russian state and Russian intelligence services”, claiming that he had “managed and financed influence operations on the Kremlin’s behalf ”. These included “information operations and election interference efforts”.
A key section of this report focuses on Rusal, the Russian aluminium conglomerate in which EN+ has a stake of just under 57 per cent. According to its findings: “Deripaska’s companies, including Rusal, are proxies for the Kremlin, including for the Russian government influence efforts.” Moreover, American investigators have identified a number of former high-ranking members of Russia’s intelligence and security services who they say occupy prominent positions in several of “Deripaska’s companies”. They include Victor Boyarkin, a former member of the Russian GRU intelligence unit accused of carrying out the Salisbury attack in 2018, who is described in the report as “Deripaska’s ‘Chief of Staff ’” and is now the subject of US sanctions.
Another former Russian intelligence officer employed is Yevgeny Fokin, who previously held a senior position in Russia’s overseas SVR intelligence service – Moscow’s equivalent of MI6 – and has worked as “director for international cooperation” for EN+. Lord Barker’s continued involvement with a company in which Mr Deripaska is a significant investor has prompted criticism from several prominent Tory MPs.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the influential foreign affairs committee, has said more attention needs to be paid to “how foreign influence undermines our democracy and our security”, while Bob Seeley, who sits on the same committee, remarked, “If this does not make the case for a foreign lobbying act, I don’t know what does.” Responding to the criticism, Lord Barker said EN+ had no involvement in the UK. “EN+ has no operations in the UK. It has no ask of the British government.” Mr Deripaska has also denied any wrongdoing. The controversy over the peer’s pay package comes at a time of mounting concern among MPs about the ability of hostile states like Russia to operate