Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has disclosed that the UK has begun discussions with its international allies about sending modern weaponry to Moldova to protect it from Russia.
She said that she wants to see the country, which is to the south-west of Ukraine, “equipped to Nato standard.”
Moldova is not currently a Nato member and there are concerns that it could be a future target for Vladimir Putin after the Ukraine conflict.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Truss said: “I would want to see Moldova equipped to Nato standard. This is a discussion we’re having with our allies.
“Putin has been absolutely clear about his ambitions to create a greater Russia – and just because his attempts to take Kyiv weren’t successful it doesn’t mean he’s abandoned those ambitions.”
The UK, US, France and Germany have held talks about whether to sign a form of security guarantee for Ukraine to continue providing weaponry and support in the long term.
Truss added: “What we’re working on at the moment is a joint commission with Ukraine and Poland on upgrading Ukrainian defences to Nato standard. So we will scope out what that looks like, what the Ukrainians need. The question then is how do you maintain that over time?
“How do we ensure … that Ukraine is permanently able to defend itself and how do we guarantee that happens? That’s what we are working on at the moment.
“And that also applies to other vulnerable states such as Moldova. Because again, the threat is broader from Russia, we also need to make sure that they are equipped to Nato standards.”
Last month Moldova’s deputy prime minister warned that the country was facing “a very dangerous new moment” and said forces were seeking to stoke tensions after a series of explosions in the break-away region of Transnistria.
Nicu Popescu said his government had seen “a dangerous deterioration of the situation” after grenade attacks on the “ministry of security” in the region. The attacks represented “a very dangerous new moment in the history of our region”, he said, adding that Moldova’s institutions had been put on high alert in response.
Fears are growing that Moldova and Transnistria could be drawn into the Ukraine conflict. The predominantly Russian-speaking region in eastern Moldova has been controlled by pro-Russia separatists since 1992 after a short war when Moscow intervened on the side of the rebels.
Speaking before the attacks, a senior Russian commander said gaining control over southern Ukraine would help Russia link up with Transnistria, which shares a 453km (280-mile) border with Ukraine.