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Liz Truss issues Ukraine warning to Vladimir Putin after posing in a tank like Margaret Thatcher

Liz Truss today channelled Margaret Thatcher as she posed for photographs while standing in a tank in a move which is likely to fuel speculation of a future Tory leadership bid. 

Mrs Thatcher, the former Tory premier, was memorably photographed riding in a British tank in West Germany in 1986 as she visited UK troops.

Ms Truss, the Foreign Secretary, recreated the images during a trip to Tallinn in Estonia as she visited British forces on NATO deployment. 

The photos were published after a survey of Tory members revealed Ms Truss is still the most popular Cabinet minister among the Conservative rank and file.

The Foreign Secretary has now occupied the top spot in the Conservative Home website's monthly Cabinet league table survey for one whole year. 

The photos were taken before Ms Truss headed to Riga, Latvia, for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers today. 

She issued a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin when she arrived at the summit as she said it would be a 'strategic mistake' for Moscow to invade Ukraine. 

The Foreign Secretary said the UK will 'stand with our fellow democracies against Russia's malign activity'. 

She rejected the narrative put forward by Moscow that NATO is 'provoking' Russia as she said: 'Any suggestion that NATO is provoking the Russians is clearly false.' 

Liz Truss channelled her inner Margaret Thatcher today as she posed for photos in a tank beside the Union Flag during a trip to Estonia 

Mrs Thatcher, the former Tory premier, was memorably photographed riding in a British tank in West Germany in 1986 as she visited UK troops

The pictures of Ms Truss are likely to fuel speculation of a future Tory leadership bid after posing like the former Prime Minister

 The photos were published after a survey of Tory members revealed Ms Truss is still the most popular Cabinet minister among the Conservative rank and file

The photos came after a survey of Conservative members found Ms Truss is viewed as the most popular Cabinet minister

The pictures of Ms Truss smiling in the tank were taken in Estonia before Foreign Secretary Truss attended a NATO summit in Riga, Latvia

Ms Truss today warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that invading Ukraine would be a 'strategic mistake'

After the photos in the tank with her camoflaged army vest Ms Truss warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that an incursion into Ukraine would be a 'strategic mistake'

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was visiting British troops on deployment to Estonia as a part of the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) as they operate alongside other NATO troops in Tapa, Estonia

The UK and the US have expressed concerns about the build-up of Russian forces on Russia's border with Ukraine. 

The Kremlin has dismissed claims that it is preparing to invade but Ukraine is seeking 'swift' action from its allies to 'deter' a potential incursion by Moscow.

Ukraine has warned that Russia could launch a military operation 'in the blink of an eye'.      

Ms Truss today warned Mr Putin against making an aggressive move as she insisted the UK will 'stand with' its allies. 

'We want a world where freedom and democracy don't just survive, they thrive,' the Foreign Secretary said. 

'To this end, we will stand with our fellow democracies against Russia's malign activity.

'We will support Ukraine and stability in the western Balkans, to safeguard their security and build their economic resilience.

'We have seen this playbook from the Kremlin before when Russia falsely claimed its illegal annexation of Crimea was a response to Nato aggression. Nato is an alliance forged on the principle of defence, not provocation. Any suggestion that Nato is provoking the Russians is clearly false.

'Any action by Russia to undermine the freedom and democracy that our partners enjoy would be a strategic mistake.' 

The Foreign Secretary said the UK will 'stand with our fellow democracies against Russia's malign activity'

The meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Riga will focus on agreeing how to respond to Russia's military build up near the Ukrainian border. 

Ministers will also discuss the ongoing tensions on the border between Belarus and Poland.   

Ahead of the summit in Latvia, the Foreign Secretary met British troops deployed in Estonia as part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence in the alliance’s eastern members. 

Lukashenko says he will ask Putin to arm Belarus with NUKES if NATO sends similar weapons to Poland as Putin warns the alliance not to cross his 'red lines' on Ukraine military build-up 

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has said he will ask Vladimir Putin to arm his country with nukes if NATO sends similar weapons to Poland.

The strongman dictator told the Kremlin-backed RIA news agency: 'We are ready for [nuclear weapons] on the territory of Belarus.' 

The claim came after Putin today warned the West and Ukraine not to cross his 'red lines' as NATO leaders met in Latvia amid soaring tensions in the Baltic and Black Sea regions.

Putin has sent some 94,000 troops to the Ukrainian frontier and the White House has warned Europe to brace for an invasion that would dwarf the 2014 annexation of the Crimea. 

But the Russian president said that the Kremlin was just as concerned by NATO's buildup of military hardware near its borders as the West was about the reinforcements gathering on the other side of the frontier.  

A Spanish tank taking part in NATO's annual 'Winter Shield' military exercise in Adazi, Lativa on Monday

An armoured track vehicle taking part in the NATO annual military exercise 'Winter Shield' in Adazi, Latvia, on Monday

A Latvian soldier jumps off a military vehicle during the NATO annual military exercise

Lukashenko (pictured in Minsk, left) told the Kremlin-backed RIA news agency: 'We are ready for [nuclear weapons] on the territory of Belarus.' That came after Putin (right) warned NATO not to cross 'red lines'

A map shared with Military Times earlier this month and replicated above shows how Ukrainian intelligence is bracing for a bloody and ferocious invasion that could see swathes of Ukraine captured in an assault which would dwarf the annexation of the Crimea in 2014

Speaking to participants of an online investment forum the Russian president said that NATO's eastward expansion has threatened Moscow's core security interests.

He expressed concern that NATO could eventually use the Ukrainian territory to deploy missiles capable of reaching Russia's command centres in just five minutes.

'The emergence of such threats represents a 'red line' for us,' Putin said. 'I hope that common sense and responsibility for their own countries and the global community will eventually prevail.'

He added that Moscow has been forced to counter the growing threats by developing new hypersonic weapons.

'What should we do?' Putin said. 'We would need to develop something similar to target those who threaten us. And we can do that even now.'

He said a new hypersonic missile that is set to enter service with the Russian navy early next year would be capable of reaching targets in comparable time.

'It would also need just five minutes to reach those who issue orders,' Putin said.

The Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound to a range of 620 miles, has undergone a series of tests, most recently Monday.

Ukrainian and Western officials have expressed worries this month that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbour. 

A tank takes part in the NATO annual military exercise 'Winter Shield' 2021 in Adazi, Latvia

A tank takes part in the NATO annual military exercise 'Winter Shield'

An armoured car of the combined NATO forced in Adazi on Monday

Weapons race: A comparison of the most advanced (columns from left) missiles, aircraft carriers, tanks and aircraft possessed by China, the US and Russia

NATO foreign ministers warned Russia on Tuesday that any attempt to further destabilise Ukraine would be a costly mistake. 

'There will be a high price to pay for Russia if they once again use force against the independence of the nation, Ukraine,' NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday as he arrived for the meeting of foreign ministers in Riga.  

He warned that 'we can sustain heavy economic and financial sanctions' against Moscow and said 'we have increased our presence here in the region, both in the Black Sea region but also in the Baltic region.'

The Kremlin has insisted it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 after the country's Kremlin-friendly president was driven from power by mass protests and also threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency that broke out in Ukraine's east.

Earlier this year, a spike in cease-fire violations in the east and a Russian troop concentration near Ukraine fuelled war fears, but tensions abated when Moscow pulled back the bulk of its forces after manoeuvres in April.

He argued that to avoid tensions, Russia and the West should negotiate agreements that would take the parties' security interests into account.

The Russian leader noted that Russia has been strongly worried about NATO's drills near its borders, pointing at a recent exercise that involved U.S. strategic bombers.

'Strategic bombers, which carry precision weapons and are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, were flying as close as 12 miles to our border,' he said. 'That represents a threat for us.'   

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a dramatic press conference in Kiev last Friday. The president said: 'We have challenges not only from the Russian Federation and possible escalation - we have big internal challenges. I received information that a coup d'etat will take place in our country on December 1-2.'

'We are very concerned about the movements we've seen along Ukraine's border. We know that Russia often combines those efforts with internal efforts to destabilize a country. That's part of the playbook, and we're looking at it very closely,' U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (pictured in Pittsburgh in September) said

Separately, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lobbed a series of new accusations against Kiev and said Russia reserved the right to respond if its security was threatened.

'We simply don't have the right to exclude that the Kiev regime may embark on a military adventure. This all creates a direct threat to Russia's security,' Lavrov told reporters, speaking alongside his Brazilian counterpart Carlos Franca.

'If the West is unable to contain Ukraine, but, on the contrary, will incite it, then of course, we will take all the necessary steps to ensure our reliable security.'

Lavrov said Ukrainian military manoeuvres and use of drones in the country's east, held by pro-Russian separatists, posed a threat to Russia, and it was ready to respond if needed. 

'We simply cannot rule out the possibility that Kyiv will set out on a military adventure,' he told a news conference in Moscow. 

'President Putin stressed that we do not need conflict but if the West cannot hold back Ukraine - and on the contrary encourages it - of course we will take all the necessary steps to ensure our security.' 

Last week Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia was sending 'very dangerous' signals with troop movements on the border, warning that his military was ready to push back any offensive.

Moscow, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists fighting Kiev, has strongly denied it is plotting an attack and blames NATO for fuelling tensions.

The conflict in the east has claimed more than 13,000 lives since 2014.