The former British prime minister says the Russian president threatened him during a phone call ahead of the invasion of Ukraine.
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile attack during a phone call ahead of the invasion of Ukraine.
Johnson, speaking to the BBC for a documentary to be broadcast later on Monday, said the Russian leader had asked him about Ukraine’s prospects of joining NATO, to which he replied that it would not be “in the foreseeable future”.
“He threatened me at one point 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 unusual” call in February 2022 .which followed the then Prime Minister’s visit to Kyiv.
“But I think that by the very relaxed tone that he had, by the kind of distance that he had, he was just adding to my attempts to get him to negotiate.”
As the war progressed, Johnson emerged as one of the most passionate Western supporters of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
But before the invasion, he says he tried hard to tell Putin there was no immediate prospect of Ukraine joining NATO, warning him that any invasion would mean “more NATO, not less NATO” on Russia’s borders.
“He said: ‘Boris, you say that Ukraine will not join NATO soon.
“‘What’s soon?’ And I said: ‘Well, it will not join NATO in the foreseeable future. You know that perfectly well.’”
The BBC documentary shows the growing rift between the Russian leader and the West in the years before the invasion of Ukraine.
It also shows Zelensky reflecting on his thwarted ambitions to join NATO before Russia attacks.
“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, then stop.”
In the years leading up to the war, relations between Moscow and London fell to their lowest level in decades, following the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the British city of Salisbury in 2018.
Johnson, who resigned in September after a series of scandals, sought to position London as Kiev’s biggest ally in the West.
While in office, he visited Kyiv several times, often called Zelensky and was loved by Ukrainians.
He made another surprise visit last week to show his continued solidarity.
“The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and the whole world,” he said in a statement.