United Kingdom

Boris Johnson says Putin said he could hit him with a missile


LONDON (UKTN) — Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said President Vladimir Putin didn’t seem serious about avoiding war in the days before Russia invaded Ukraine — and at one point told the British leader that it would be easy for him to to kill with a rocket.

The Kremlin denied that Putin had made such a threat.

In a documentary released Monday, Johnson says he called Putin in February 2022 and tried to dissuade him from war by telling him Ukraine would not join NATO in the foreseeable future — a long-standing concern of the Russian leader — and that an invasion would lead to “massive Western sanctions.

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“From the very relaxed tone he took, the kind of aloofness he seemed to have, he just played along with my attempts to get him to negotiate,” says Johnson on the UKTN series “Putin vs the West.”

Johnson says Putin “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.”

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The three-part series produced by veteran documentary filmmaker Norma Percy chronicles how Western leaders interacted with the Russian president in the years leading up to the February 24, 2022 invasion.

Percy said Monday she didn’t think Putin was making a direct threat, but “it was a reminder that he could do it, and (Johnson) should remember that when dealing with him.”

Asked about Johnson’s comments, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said his account was not true, “or rather, it was a lie”. Peskov said Johnson may have deliberately lied or misunderstood what Putin told him.

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“There were no missile threats,” Peskov said on a conference call with reporters. “While speaking of security challenges for Russia, President Putin said that if Ukraine joins NATO, the possible placement of US or other NATO missiles near our borders would mean that such a missile could reach Moscow within minutes.”

Johnson was one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s most prominent international allies until ethics scandals ousted him from office in mid-2022. Britain remains a major supplier of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.