Westminster Russia Forum

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Cobb Energy Communications



  • Mar/Apr.2013: In Plain Sight: The Kremlin’s London Lobby. One recent episode of Moscow’s see-through machinations involved a London-based lobby group Conservative Friends of Russia (CFoR). Launched in Aug.2012 — and shut down in December. CFoR presented itself as a “neutral” talk-shop about British-Russian relations, followed slavishly the talking points of the Russian Foreign Ministry. The chairman, Richard Royal, gave an interview to the founder of a notorious neo-Nazi group in Russia in which he spoke about the Caucasus, Russia’s counterterrorism policies, and other matters high on the agenda of any chauvinistic ultranationalist. Several Tories told me they had felt all along that CFoR was little more than a serially embarrassed front for “useful idiots” (his words). Sure enough, the final act of public relations seppuku came on Nov.23 when CFoR sent out a press release clumsily attacking Labor MP Chris Bryant, who heads the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Russia in the HoC and who is known for his tough line against the Kremlin. Within hours, Sir Malcolm Rifkind resigned from his position as “honorary president”. More defections from the CFoR board soon followed, including those of MPs Robert Buckland and Nigel Evans. Then came the hammer-blow: a Guardian exclusive, written by former Moscow correspondent Luke Harding (who was famously expelled from Russia after reporting on WikiLeaks’ disclosures about the Putin regime), confirming Bryant’s suspicion that CFoR was indeed being orchestrated by the Russian Embassy in Kensington Gardens. CFoR relaunched itself recently as the “Westminster Russia Forum,” importing all of its prior members automatically. However, there is no publicly available information regarding the Forum’s new governance, or whether any parliamentarians are still affiliated. World Affairs, Michael Weiss