LONDON, United Kingdom – Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike during a phone call in the run up to the invasion of Ukraine, a charge denied by Moscow.
Johnson, speaking to the BBC for a documentary, said the Russian leader had asked him about the prospects of Ukraine joining NATO, to which he had responded it would not be “for the foreseeable future”.
“He threatened me at one point, and he said, ‘Boris, I don’t want to hurt you but, with a missile, it would only take a minute’ or something like that. Jolly,” Johnson said, recalling the “very long” and “most extraordinary” call in February 2022 which followed a visit by the then prime minister to Kyiv.
“But I think 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.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters what Johnson had said was not true, or “more precisely, a lie”.
Peskov said Johnson may have deliberately lied or failed to understand what Putin was telling him.
“There were no threats with missiles,” Peskov said on a conference call with reporters. “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.”
Relations between Moscow and London had sunk to their lowest level in decades even before Russia invaded Ukraine, on the back of the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the British city of Salisbury in 2018.
Johnson, who stepped down in September in the wake of a series of scandals, sought to position London as Kyiv’s top ally in the West. While in office he visited Kyiv several times and called Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy frequently. – Reuters