THE chairman of the Tory party has been slammed over his silence around questions about an allegedly Kremlin-linked donor to the party.

Oliver Dowden, the co-chair of the Conservative Party, has repeatedly refused to answer key questions about evidence which links the party to Vladimir Putin and Eastern European oligarchs.

Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds upbraided the Tory MP for his refusal to answer six separate letters about the matter.

The controversy stems from allegations surrounding the alleged links between a Tory party donor and Vladimir Putin’s regime revealed in a New York Times article.

READ MORE: Major Tory donor 'suspected of funnelling Russian money into party'

Wealthy London art dealer Ehud Sheleg gifted $630,225 to the party while he was its treasurer but concerns about the donation were dismissed when raised in 2019.

Stephen Kinnock, who raised the concerns as a matter of “sovereignty and national security”, was told pursuing the matter could be libellous “with the implication that legal action would be forthcoming”.

Dodds said the New York Times story, which revealed that the money had come from Sheleg’s father-in-law, a former pro-Kremlin politician in Ukraine.

Sergei Kopytov is thought to hold real estate in Crimea and Russia and gifted his son-in-law millions in the months up to the donation.

Dodds demanded the Tory party apologise to Kinnock over the libel accusations and said the concerns around the donation raised serious questions about the Tory party’s links with oligarchs.

She said: “Did [Sheleg] host a reception with the Russian ambassador to the UK following the annexation of Crimea?

“Are assets apparently owned by Mr Kopytov, such as a Mercedes-Benz car, used by individuals involved in the Russian state?

“Did the bank transfer at issue in the New York Times article originate from a Russian bank? Were sanctioned entities involved? Exactly what current and former links do the Sheleg-Kopytov family hold with key actors in the Russian state?

“Finally, has electoral law been broken and, relatedly, has our national security been compromised?”

Dodds said she expected an answer from the Tory party “in the coming days… given the gravity of these matters”.  

She raised the matter in a point of order in the Commons on Tuesday, asking the Deputy Speaker for advice for breaking the Tory omerta over the topic.

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Dodds was instructed to raise the issue directly with Dowden or to approach the Electoral Commission.

In the UK it is illegal for political parties to receive donations over £500 from foreign citizens who are not eligible to vote here – which would implicate any donation made by Kopytov as he is not on the electoral register.

According to the alert filed by Barclays, $2.5m was transferred from a Russian bank account in Kopytov’s name in January 2018 and was subsequently moved through empty European bank accounts belonging to Sheleg and his wife.

Via a statement issued by Sheleg’s lawyer to the New York Times, Kopytov said he was a Ukrainian citizen and had not made any such donation.

He said: “I have no interest in British politics whatsoever.

“Any donations made by my son-in-law to a British political party have nothing to do with me or with the money I gifted to my daughter.”

The National has approached Dowden for comment.