The Defence Secretary has said he is “aware of the intelligence” with regard to allegations that Russia secretly offered Taliban-linked fighters bounties to kill UK and US soldiers.

Reports claim the same Russian intelligence unit responsible for the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury was behind the plot to attack coalition troops in Afghanistan last year.

President Donald Trump has insisted he was not briefed on reported US intelligence after the New York Times – citing unnamed officials – said the findings were presented to him in late March.

When pressed on the matter by Defence Select Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “I’m aware of the intelligence but I can’t comment on intelligence matters, other than to say that we take lots of measures to defend and make sure our soldiers, men and women of our armed forces when they’re deployed are kept safe, and we take a range of measures to mitigate against that threat.

“Where that threat comes from is, I’m afraid, broad, it can be terrorists, it can be hostile state activity, it can be any number of adversaries and we tailor make our defensive measures to meet that threat, so I don’t think I would say there is any greater danger than the danger they face every day from IS, al Qaida or, indeed, other forces in Afghanistan.”

Mr Ellwood said: “If it’s deemed true, this is unacceptable behaviour of a permanent member of the UN security council to be acting in this way.”

Eight Republican members of US congress have attended a White House briefing about the allegations, calling for more information and consequences for Russia and the country’s president Vladimir Putin.