Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened him during a telephone call shortly before the invasion of Ukraine.
Johnson made the claim in a documentary for the BBC. According to the former prime minister, he spoke with Putin just days before Russian forces invaded Ukraine.
The Kremlin has denied the claims and dismissed Johnson as a liar. Meanwhile, the UK and other Western nations continue to supply Ukraine with military equipment and financial support.
Boris Johnson says Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile
“I don’t want to hurt you, but with a missile, it would only take a minute,” Vladimir Putin is alleged to have said to Boris Johnson during a telephone call, just days before Russian troops commenced with the invasion of Ukraine.
Johnson was still the UK prime minister when the “extraordinary” conversation took place. The former prime minister said that he felt that Putin was only “playing along” with him during the discussion.
“From the very relaxed tone that he was taking, the sort of air of detachment that he seemed to have, he was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate,” Johnson commented.
The Russian president also reportedly asked him “Boris, you say that Ukraine is not going to join NATO any time soon. […] What is any time soon?”
“Well, it’s not going to join NATO for the foreseeable future. You know that perfectly well,” responded Johnson, according to his own account of the conversation. It was then that the Russian president made the missile threat, according to Johnson’s account.
Johnson made the comments in a new BBC Two documentary series examining the West’s relationship with Putin in the year’s leading up to the war in Ukraine.
On Monday, the Kremlin denied that any threats were made toward the former British prime minister.
“There were no threats with missiles,” said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Russian government. “While talking about security challenges to Russia, President Putin said that if Ukraine joins NATO the potential deployment of U.S. or other NATO missiles near our borders would mean that any such missile could reach Moscow in minutes.”
“It is 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 did not in fact understand what Putin was talking to him about,” Peskov also said.
According to the Kremlin spokesperson, the Russian president told Johnson that NATO membership posed a threat to Russia because it would allow the placement of US or NATO missiles within range of Moscow and that these missiles could hit the Russian capital within minutes.
Peskov alleged that the former British prime minister may have been confused. “If that’s how this passage was understood, then it’s a very awkward situation,” he said.