Boris Johnson says Vladimir Putin threatened him with missile strike : NPR
LONDON — Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said President Vladimir Putin did not seem serious about avoiding war in the days before Russia invaded Ukraine — and at one point told the leader A Brit who would be easy to kill with a missile.
The Kremlin has denied that Putin made any such threat.
In a documentary released Monday, Johnson says he called Putin in February 2022 and tried to dissuade him from war, telling him that Ukraine would not join NATO in the near future – a long-standing concern of the leader’s Russian – and that warning that the invasion would bring “massive” “Western Sanctions.
“From the very relaxed tone he was taking, the kind of detached air he seemed to have, he was playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate,” Johnson says in the BBC series “Putin vs. -West.”
Johnson says that Putin “threatened me at one point and said, ‘Boris, I don’t want to hurt you, but with a missile, it only takes a minute’, or something like that.”
The three-part series produced by veteran documentary maker Norma Percy chronicles how Western leaders dealt with Russia’s president in the years leading up to the February 24, 2022, invasion.
Percy said Monday that she didn’t think Putin was making a direct threat but “it was a reminder that he could do that, and (Johnson) should remember that when he’s dealing with him.”
Asked about Johnson’s comments, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said his account was not true, “or, more precisely, it was a lie.” Peskov said that Johnson may have deliberately lied or failed to understand what Putin was telling him.
“There were no threats with missiles,” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters. “Discussing the security challenges facing Russia, President Putin said that if Ukraine joins NATO the potential deployment of US or other NATO missiles near our borders it would mean that any such missile could reach Moscow within minutes.”
Johnson was one of the most prominent international allies of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy until he was forced out of office in mid-2022 by ethics scandals. Britain remains a major provider of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.