Ahead of September’s parliamentary elections, Vladimir Putin is suffering a slump in popularity due to his management of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic problems facing the nation that relies heavily on falling hydro-carbon exports. Mr Putin is set to implement sweeping tax reforms to try and reduce the nation’s budget deficit. The tax reforms are likely to become unpopular and Mr Putin may attempt to distract the electorate by manufacturing foreign policy events.

Justin Crump of Sibylline strategic risk consultancy has warned Britain could be targetted.

He said: “While China is pragmatic, Russia has already shown, with the Salisbury poisoning, that it is willing to do things that are not in their best interests just to embarrass us.

“We should not be surprised if it attempts to make us look unprepared for our post-Brexit world this year.”

The UK placed sanctions on Russia in October after it was revealed Moscow was behind a cyberattack on the German parliament.

In October, the UK Government released an online statement that read: “Today’s sanctions have been made under the EU’s regime and form part of the UK’s ongoing partnership with its allies to send a message to Russia that there will be consequences for its malicious cyber activity.

“The sanctions come into force immediately.

“The attribution of this anti-democratic attack by Russia further exposes its pattern of malign behaviour intended to undermine international law and institutions.”

UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said: “The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Germany and our European partners to hold Russia to account for cyberattacks designed to undermine Western democracies.

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The Typhoon jets intercepted two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers, the fastest and heaviest bombers in the world.

Former UK Secretay of Defence Michael Fallon spoke at the Atlantic Council think tank in the US and said: “There have been discussions with Russia about setting up some means of avoiding any miscalculation with its long-range aviation.”

Falling oil revenue because of a global retraction in travel has also hit the Russian economy.

One move that may improve Mr Putin’s domestic approval is the nation’s plan to send a Russian space-craft to the moon, the last Russian mission to the moon was 45 years ago.

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