Liz Truss today warned Vladimir Putin he faces a Ukraine ‘quagmire’ like Afghanistan or Chechnya as she warned there will be ‘nowhere to hide’ from sanctions.
The Foreign Secretary urged Russia to step back from an invasion as Britain made clear it will boost troop numbers at Nato’s borders and consider sending more weapons.
The government is due to announce moves to target Russia’s strategic and financial interests tomorrow.
And in an interview with Sky News Ms Truss said ‘nobody’ would be immune from retribution.
She insisted there will be ‘nowhere to hide for Putin’s oligarchs involved in propping up the Russian state’.
Ms Truss said Nato powers had to ‘make sure’ that any incursion caused as many problems as possible for Russia, and predicted Ukrainians would ‘fight hard’.
‘This could well result in a quagmire like the Russians saw in Afghanistan or Chechnya,’ she said.
The comments came after Boris Johnson said a new offer to Nato would ‘send a clear message to the Kremlin’ that ‘we will not tolerate their destabilising activity’.
In addition to bolstering troop numbers, No 10 said this could involve sending defensive weapons to Estonia.
Fast jets, warships and military specialists could also be sent to protect Nato allies.
Liz Truss (pictured) today warned Vladimir Putin he faces a Ukraine ‘quagmire’ like Afghanistan or Chechnya as she warned there will be ‘nowhere to hide’ from sanctions
Ukrainian civilians train to resist a Russian invasion over the weekend
Nato powers have been urging Mr Putin (pictured last week) to step back from confrontation
Ms Truss said: ‘We are offering to deploy extra troops into Estonia.
‘We are providing more air support across the Black Sea and we’re supplying defensive weapons to Ukraine to make sure that they are in the best possible position should Vladimir Putin try to stage an incursion.
‘What I’ll be announcing later this week is improved legislation on sanctions so we can target more Russian interests that are of direct relevance to the Kremlin, because we absolutely need to stop this happening. That is our number one priority.’
She added: ‘Of course, we’ll use diplomacy. I’m travelling to Ukraine this week. I’ll be travelling to Moscow next week.
‘However, the number one thing that will stop Vladimir Putin taking action is if he understands the costs of that action. This could result in a quagmire and he should be well aware of that.’
Ms Truss went on: ‘Currently, the economic sanctions are fairly narrowly drawn, so we could only target companies with a direct involvement in destabilising Ukraine.
‘What we are looking to do is widen that so any company of interest to the Kremlin and the regime in Russia would be able to be targeted, so there will be nowhere to hide for Putin’s oligarchs, for Russian companies involved in propping up the Russian state. That’s what we are looking at doing this week.’
Downing Street said the possible deployment would ‘reinforce Nato’s defences and underpin the UK’s support for Nordic and Baltic partners’.
The move comes as the Prime Minister is expected to speak to Russian president Vladimir Putin and travel to the troubled region early this week.
A second trip to meet Nato member counterparts is being planned for early next month, No 10 said.
The details of the offer will be finalised by UK officials and Nato in Brussels next week, while ministers will discuss the military options on Monday.
Mr Johnson has also directed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to prepare to go to Moscow for talks with their counterparts in the coming days.
They will be asked to improve relationships with the Russian government and encourage de-escalation, Downing Street said.
In addition, Mr Wallace is expected to travel to meet with allies this week in Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia on Mr Johnson’s behalf.
Meanwhile, the Mr Johnson has asked the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, to attend Cabinet on Tuesday to brief ministers on the situation in Ukraine.
The UK already has more than 100 troops providing training in Ukraine as part of Operation Orbital.
There are also 900 British military personnel based in Estonia, and a Light Cavalry Squadron of around 150 people is deployed to Poland, No 10 said.
It comes after Mr Johnson asked defence and security chiefs to consider further defensive military options in Europe during a high-level intelligence briefing on the situation last week.
The Prime Minister said: ‘This package would send a clear message to the Kremlin – we will not tolerate their destabilising activity, and we will always stand with our Nato allies in the face of Russian hostility.
‘If President Putin chooses a path of bloodshed and destruction, it will be a tragedy for Europe. Ukraine must be free to choose its own future.
‘I have ordered our Armed Forces to prepare to deploy across Europe next week, ensuring we are able to support our Nato allies on land, at sea and in the air.’
Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to the RAF base in Anglesey last week) said a new offer to Nato would ‘send a clear message to the Kremlin’ that ‘we will not tolerate their destabilising activity’
Labour earlier accused the Prime Minister of ‘playing catch-up with other world leaders’ on deterring Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Shadow defence secretary John Healey reiterated calls for the imposition of a ‘register of overseas entities’ to ‘lift the veil on who owns property and assets in the UK’, after it was reported that American officials fear they will not be able to effectively sanction Mr Putin because of Russian money ‘entrenched’ in London.
US president Joe Biden has suggested moving to penalise the Russian president could be an option in the case of an invasion.
When asked last week if he could see himself sanctioning Mr Putin in those circumstances, Mr Biden told reporters: ‘Yes, I would see that.’
Asked if the UK would support personal sanctions against the Russian president, Ms Truss told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday that the Government had ‘ruled nothing out’.
Ms Truss has been forthright in speaking out against Russia’s threatened invasion of Ukraine, and took the unusual step of declassifying intelligence which suggested Mr Putin was plotting to install a pro-Moscow leader as head of the government in Kyiv.