Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike in an “extraordinary” phone call in the run-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
Johnson, who was prime minister at the time, said Putin told him it “would only take a minute” in a comment after he warned the war would be an “utter catastrophe” during a phone call in February last year.
Details of the exchange are revealed in a BBC documentary, ‘Putin Vs the West’, to be telecast later on Monday, which examines Putin’s interactions with the world leaders.
Johnson reportedly warned Putin that a conflict with Ukraine would lead to Western sanctions and more North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) troops on Russia’s borders.
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He said he also tried to deter Russian military action by telling the Russian President that Ukraine would not join NATO “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 told the BBC.
“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,” he said.
The BBC notes that no reference to the exchange appeared in accounts of the call given by both Downing Street and the Kremlin at the time. The BBC documentary also reveals UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace left Moscow in early February 2022 with assurances that Russia would not attack Ukraine, but he said both sides knew it was a lie.
The minister described it as a “demonstration of bullying or strength, which is: I’m going to lie to you, you know I’m lying and I know you know I’m lying and I’m still going to lie to you”. “I think it was about saying ‘I’m powerful’,” Wallace told the BBC. He said the “fairly chilling, but direct lie” had confirmed his belief that the Russia-Ukraine conflict was coming.
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