The Foreign Secretary said she is ruling nothing out “in terms of who we target” over the Ukraine crisis, as she faced calls for her party to hand back donated cash with Russian connections reportedly worth nearly £2 million.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Wednesday, Ms Truss was presented with a photograph appearing to show her standing alongside Conservative Party donor Lubov Chernukhin, wife of Mr Putin’s former deputy finance minister Vladimir Chernukhin.
The picture, which was posted to Ms Truss’s Instagram page in April 2019, has the caption: “And it’s ladies night…#cabinetandfriends #girlpower.”
Ms Truss said the Russian leader appeared to be “hell-bent” on invading his neighbour, including potentially an assault on the capital, Kyiv.
She said the Government had further measures “in the locker” which it could activate, after an initial tranche of sanctions announced on Tuesday was widely criticised as being too weak.
Asked if this shows the closeness of the UK Government to Russian money, she said: “What I can say to you today is that we will target anybody who we believe has links to the Putin regime, who is helping support and prop up the Putin government, and nothing is off the table in terms of who we target.”
Pressed on whether she was embarrassed by the photograph, she said: “No I’m not. I attended the dinner at the time.
“I make my decisions as Foreign Secretary on the basis of what is right and as I’ve said, without prejudice we will target anybody who is of interest in terms of the Russian regime, who is helping prop up Vladimir Putin’s appalling regime, and there are no other considerations as far as I am concerned.”
Ms Truss earlier insisted that all donations to the Conservative Party are from people on the electoral register and they are “properly declared”.
She told Sky News “nothing is off the table” when asked if any sanctions could potentially be imposed on Tory donors in the event of what she called a “full-scale invasion” of Ukraine.
The White House, meanwhile, also signalled a halt to diplomatic moves to resolve the crisis, scrapping plans for a potential crisis summit between Mr Putin and President Joe Biden.
It follows Mr Putin’s announcement that Russia would recognise the breakaway “republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, a move seen by many in the West as a precursor to a full-scale invasion.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy has said the Labour Party is concerned about “too much connection between Russian oligarchs” and donations to the Conservative Party.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Lammy said: “Our concerns are, I’m afraid, that there has been too much connection between Russian oligarchs and donations to the Conservative Party.
“But we’ve said this. We think that they should hand back £2 million.
“Frankly, it’s not clear entirely what’s going on. I mean, I just think this was a moment when Britain had to step up and demonstrate certain kinds of seriousness. It hasn’t happened.”
Asked if they were making accusations of corruption, Mr Lammy said: “This isn’t just the allegation of the Labour Party. This is the allegation of our intelligence committee and the Russia report.
“This is the allegation of the Committee of the Senate of the US Representatives who also investigated Russian interference and raised serious issues about the interference of Russian oligarchs not just in our country, but in Europe.
“So, this is a long-standing issue. This is a line in the sand.”