“Dirty” Russian money is undermining Britain's efforts to stand up to the Kremlin and supports President Vladimir Putin's campaign "to subvert the international rules-based system," a parliamentary report says, drawing an angry reaction from the Kremlin.
"The scale of damage that this 'dirty money' can do to U.K. foreign-policy interests dwarfs the benefit of Russian transactions in the City," Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat said on May 21 ahead of the release of the report, titled Moscow's Gold: Russian Corruption In The U.K.
He warned that London's markets were "enabling" the Kremlin to spread its influence throughout the West by allowing Russians to buy and sell luxury properties in the British capital.
"Over the years, Moscow has turned from being a corrupt state to an exporter of instability. Russian corruption and influence has become a matter of national security," he added.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the report was evidence of "unprecedented anti-Russian mania" in Britain and “unfair competition” against Russian business.
Peskov warned that such an attitude could backfire, saying, "I have no doubt that such actions won't go unnoticed by investors from other countries."
But British Prime Minister Theresa May responded that Britain's argument is with the Russian government, not the country's people or companies.
"The prime minister has been absolutely clear that our argument is not with the Russian people. Our dispute is with the Russian government," a May spokesman said on May 21.
Britain has been a major landing spot for a massive flight of Russian funds since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
That situation puts Britain in a difficult situation, the report said, as it attempts to lead a diplomatic response against Russia following the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in the English city of Salisbury.
London blames the attack on the Kremlin, which denies any involvement.
Russia has also been accused of interfering in the U.S. election in 2016 and in other votes in Europe and for a series of cyberattacks around the world. It denies the allegations.
"There is no excuse for the U.K. to turn a blind eye as President Putin’s kleptocrats and human rights abusers use money laundered through London to corrupt our friends, weaken our alliances, and erode faith in our institutions," the committee report said.
"The use of London as a base for the corrupt assets of Kremlin-connected individuals is now clearly linked to a wider Russian strategy and has implications for our national security," it added.
Among other suggestions, the committee recommended working with the European Union and United States on a way to prohibit the purchase of Russian bonds that have been sold with the help of sanctioned banks, and a ban on European clearing houses making Russian debt available.
"The size of London's financial markets and their importance to Russian investors gives the U.K. considerable leverage over the Kremlin," the report added.