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Wife of Vladimir Putin ally 'paid £45,000 for tennis match with Boris Johnson'

The wife of a Vladimir Putin ally paid £45,000 for a tennis match with Boris Johnson at a Tory fundraiser, it was claimed today.

Lubov Chernukhin, who is married to billionaire former Russian minister Vladimir, has been named as the donor who shelled out for a place on court with the PM at the glitzy Black and White Ball on Tuesday night. 

Mr Johnson has been heavily criticised for 'schmoozing' at the annual event in London despite failing to visit any victims of flooding - 12 days after the extreme weather started causing misery across the country.

He was branded a 'part-time PM' in the Commons yesterday and accused of going 'awol' during last week's parliamentary recess, which he spent at the Chevening estate in Kent. 

Banker Mrs Chernukhin, who is believed to be a British citizen, gave £200,000 to the Tory election campaign before Christmas, and enjoyed a night out with Theresa May and six female Cabinet members in April after donating £135,000 at a fundraiser. 

In 2014 David Cameron faced questions after Mrs Chernukhin successfully bid £160,000 at a party fundraising dinner to play tennis against him and Mr Johnson.

The former PM was accused of hypocrisy over the donation, which came at a time when he was pushing for tougher Western sanctions against Moscow in response to its annexation of Crimea and the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. 

However, the Tories insist all donations are properly declared and checked.  

Boris Johnson pictured with guests at the Black and White Ball in south west London on Tuesday night

Lubov Chernukhin (pictured circled left, and right) has donated more than £1million to the Tories, including £135,000 to have tea with Theresa may in April last year as revealed by Liz Truss on Instagram

The grim situation in Bewdley, Worcestershire, yesterday where flood barriers have failed to hold back the River Severn

Video emerged of the premier at the ball last night, singing on stage with compere Wynne Evans, star of the Go Compare adverts.

As an awkward-looking Mr Johnson tried the first line of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the opera singer joked that he had a 'touch of the John Redwoods' - a reference to the former Cabinet minister's notorious attempt to remember the Welsh national anthem.  

Evans then sang 'Land of My Fathers', with Mr Johnson giving the traditional line 'Ar hyd y nos' to applause from the audience. 

Mr Johnson also posed for pictures with prominent Conservative supporters at the event. 

An anonymous donor paid £60,000 for gold and silver versions of the Brexit Day commemorative coin, and a signed copy of the Withdrawal Agreement.

A flight in a Lancaster Bomber with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is reported to have fetched £2,000. 

More than 650 people paid £1,000 a head for tickers to the annual event in  Battersea. 

Jeremy Corbyn slammed the premier at PMQs yesterday for spending time raising cash for his party 'instead of getting out there and supporting the people who are suffering'.

But Mr Johnson desperately tried to deflect criticism for failing to visit in 12 days since the floods hit, including last week when he stayed at the Chevening estate in Kent during the Commons recess, 

He said he was 'very proud' of the government's response, claiming there had been a 'constant stream of activity' from ministers despite him taking a back seat. 

Jeremy Corbyn taunted Mr Johnson for 'schmoozing' at the glitzy Conservative Black & White ball fundraiser (pictured left) 'instead of getting out there and supporting the people who are suffering'. A host of other ministers including Michael Gove (right) were also present

Video has emerged of Boris Johnson at the glitzy Black and White ball last night, singing on stage with compere Wynne Evans, star of the Go Compare adverts

Guests at the event in Battersea, south west London, on Tuesday night posted pictures of themselves with the PM

Mr Johnson posed for pictures with guests including blogger and author Anne Welsh last night

Boris Johnson took PMQs in the Commons yesterday after more than a week in which he has barely spoken a word in public

Those attending the event in Battersea on Tuesday night were handed a note from the PM thanking them for their support 

Intense rescue operations have been under way in Bewdley, Worcestershire (pictured yesterday), where the River Severn is breaching flood defences

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said today that visits by senior politicians were often a 'distraction' which took away valuable resources from the emergency services.

'He (the PM) is very much in control of events. Over 100 of my constituents were flooded two weeks ago. What they are very concerned to see is action. They want to see more funding for flood defences,' Mr Jenrick told Sky News.

'They are pleased that the Government has activated quite a substantial package of financial support.

'Those are the really meaningful things which personally I think are more important than the distraction of the Prime Minister turning up in an emergency situation.

'The role of the Prime Minister is to ensure that the Government is responding effectively to an emergency situation. That is exactly what he has done.

'What the Prime Minister is more concerned about is ensuring that the proper response is made by the emergency services, by local councils and the Environment Agency.

'He is ensuring that his ministers are doing that.'

Flood-hit communities have lashed out at the government for its response to the severe weather conditions that have blitzed the country, and criticised the PM for his no-show in struggling areas such as Yorkshire, South Wales and the South West.

Storm Dennis hit on Saturday February 15, causing transport chaos as high-winds cancelled flights and rain lashed the sodden ground.

Just 12 hours later, and after torrential downpours overnight, various parts of the country were flooded, and 12 days later have still not been visited by Mr Johnson.

Anger has been growing over the way the government has reacted since the bad weather first started three weeks ago when communities in Yorkshire were flooded after Storm Ciara, in scenes reminiscent of Boxing Day 2015.

Locals in Bewdley, Worcestershire - where the Severn has overcome flood defences - expressed anger at the PM yesterday.

Jane Taylor Cohen said: 'It's not good that Boris Johnson hasn't showed up.

'If he was here I would ask him 'what are you going to do, these people need you'

'I think a lot of people are going to be angry with him.' 

Margaret Mansell has lived on the Wharfage for 30 years and was one of the last residents to be evacuated today. 

She said: 'He was very fast to go to Yorkshire when he was after t he election vote up north when there were floods. Now, there's been no sign of him. 

'There's been no sighting of him at all through any of the floods but he was very, very visible when he was after votes in Yorkshire and the north. 

'There's very little he can do but now he's got his massive majority he doesn't care. 

'I was here in 2000 when it last flooded. In 2000 it was bad and that was when the community got together.' 

A lifesize dinosaur head pokes out of the high water in Stourport on Severn which is under major flooding after the River Severn burst its banks

A young girl looks out the window of her marooned home in Ironbridge after the River Severn burst it's banks

The premier has come under fire for failing to visit the scene of flooding across England - instead choosing to stay at the opulent Chevening estate in Kent (pictured) during the parliamentary recess

Ex-veteran Ian Donnelly, 54, said: 'Boris should pay a visit to the residents or affected communities to show support to those communities, whether that's at Ironbridge or Shrewsbury or Worcester, it would be good to see that.'  

Allies insist Mr Johnson's presence would only have disrupted efforts by emergency workers to ease the impact of the extreme weather.

They have also defended his approach of delegating the response on floods and Coronavirus to Cabinet ministers, saying it is a more effective way of governing than trying to micromanage from No10.   

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