Boris Johnson to set up £700m allies 'empowerment fund' from foreign aid budget

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Boris Johnson will use millions of pounds from the foreign aid budget to bolster British allies facing the threat of increasing Russian aggression, it is understood.

The Foreign Secretary will set aside £700 million from the aid budget, which came to around £12 billion last year, for a new "empowerment fund", some of which will be spent on projects in Ukraine and the Baltic states.

The money will be used to boost the countries' "soft" power in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin's apparent hostility.

Some of the money will also be used to strengthen allies in the Middle East to combat extremism, which could include moves to improve cyber defences, according to the Sun.

The rest of the fund will be used in many different regions around the world.

It comes amid increasing criticism of the way the UK spends money on foreign aid.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "The empowerment fund is in the early stages of development. Details of the fund will be announced in Parliament in due course."