Treasury minister Simon Clarke singled out Germany for criticism, as the UK government prepares to set out new sanctions against Moscow in the event of an invasion.
“Brexit Britain is one of the foremost opponents of the actions of the [Vladimir] Putin regime,” he said. “If you look at the EU, it is countries like Germany that are dragging their feet in the response to this crisis.”
Mr Clarke told Sky News: “We are the ones tightening this sanctions regime, making sure we support our Nato allies and standing up to Putin in a way that is, frankly, leading the continent rather than following it.
The Treasury minister also denied the idea that the UK was compromised by the flow of suspected dirty Russian money into London, claiming British politics was “fundamentally clean”.
Asked by host Kay Burley about donations to the Conservative Party from Lubov Chernukhin – a former banker who holds both Russian and British citizenship – and others donors originally from Russia, Mr Clarke said: “No-one has taken money from the Russians.”
The minister added: “Let’s be very clear about this. One needs to be a UK national to make a donation. Any such donations are declared and properly scrutinised.”
Mr Clarke said there was “nothing wrong with any person in business having a link with any country, as long as it is legally-acquired wealth”, adding: “How they choose to spend it at that point is a matter for them.”
The Treasury minister said: “I think it’s important we don’t muddy the waters on this issue. To do so is to undermine a wider faith in politics. I believe British politics to be fundamentally clean.”
Mr Clarke said he did not believe Mr Johnson had lied about parties at No 10 during the pandemic and described the PM as “a good man” ahead of the imminent release of a redacted version of the Sue Gray report.
He also told LBC that Brexit has “allowed us to get rid of a load of red tape – it has been a big success already”, as the government prepares to release a booklet to celebrate “the benefits of Brexit”.
It comes as the Foreign Office is expected to set out plans to toughen the UK’s sanctions regime on Monday in a bid to target Russia’s financial interests.
Mr Clarke said that if Russia were to take “further action” against Ukraine, sanctions would be tightened, targeting businesses and individuals “with the closest links to the Kremlin”.
However, officials in Washington are said to fear that suspected dirty money flowing into London will undermine efforts to sanction Russia in the weeks ahead.
US State Department officials have expressed “dismay and frustration” at the British government’s failure to tackle the flow of Russian funds into the city, according to The Times.
A report from the Centre for American Progress, a think-tank close to Joe Biden’s administration, has warned the US will have to take the lead in countering “Russian kleptocrats” – because the UK has become “a major hub for Russian oligarchs and their wealth”.
Tory peer Lord Agnew – who dramatically quit as Whitehall efficiency tsar earlier this week – claimed the government had rejected the chance to put forward anti-fraud legislation in the next parliamentary year, attacking the decision as “foolish”.
Tory MP John Penrose, Mr Johnson’s anti-corruption chief, warned the government against delaying an economic crime bill that would expose the kleptocrats’ use of shell companies to buy British property.
Mr Penrose said the “well of excuses” has “run dry” after years of promising legislation on tackling the problem – warning that it would be “about as popular as a cup of cold sick” if the proposed bill is ditched or kicked into the long grass.