UK’s Boris Johnson says Putin threatened him with missile attack | Russia-Ukraine war News
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile attack during a phone call ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin denied.
Speaking to the BBC for a documentary due to air later on Monday, Johnson said the Russian leader asked him about the prospects of Ukraine joining NATO, to which he replied that “for the foreseeable future” it is not case be.
“He threatened me once and said, ‘Boris, I don’t want to hurt you, but with a missile, it would only take a minute,’ or something like that,” Johnson said, recalling the “very long” and “most extraordinary” call in the February 2022, which followed a visit by the then Prime Minister to Kyiv.
“But I think because of the very relaxed tone he was using, the kind of detachment he seemed to have, he was just toying with my attempts to get him to negotiate.”
Russia denies Johnson’s account.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were “no threats” from missiles in the exchange.
“It’s either a deliberate lie – so you have to ask Mr Johnson why he chose to put it that way – or it was an unconscious lie and he actually didn’t understand what Putin was talking to him about,” he told Opposite reporters .
Peskov argued that Putin actually explained to Johnson how, should Ukraine join NATO, having US or NATO weapons near Russia’s borders would mean a missile could reach Moscow within minutes.
“If that passage was understood that way, then it’s a very awkward situation,” Peskov said, suggesting that there may have been a misunderstanding.
A staunch supporter of Ukraine
As the war dragged on after February 24 last year, Johnson emerged as one of the most ardent Western supporters of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
But ahead of the invasion, he said he was at pains to tell Putin that there was no immediate prospect of Ukraine joining NATO, while warning him that any invasion would mean “more NATO, not less NATO” on Russia’s borders would.
“He said: ‘Boris, you say that Ukraine will not join NATO anytime soon.
“‘What’s coming up?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s not going to join NATO any time soon. You know that perfectly well.’”
The BBC documentary shows the growing rift between the Russian leader and the West in the years leading up to the invasion of Ukraine.
It also shows Zelenskyy contemplating his thwarted ambitions to join NATO before Russia attacked.
“If you know that Russia will occupy Ukraine tomorrow, why don’t you give me something today to stop it?” says the Ukrainian leader. “Or if you can’t give it to me, stop giving it yourself.”
In the years leading up to the war, Moscow-London relations had plummeted to their lowest levels in decades following the 2018 poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, UK.
Johnson, who resigned in September after a series of scandals, sought to position London as Kiev’s key ally in the West.
During his tenure, he visited Kyiv several times, frequently called Zelenskyy and was popular with Ukrainians.
Last week he made another surprise visit to show his continued solidarity.
“The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and for the whole world,” he said in a statement.