Boris Johnson has claimed Vladimir Putin threatened to kill him with a missile strike in the lead-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the news emerged yesterday.
The former prime minister said the Russian leader told him it ‘would only take a minute’ during a lengthy phone call in February 2022.
He alleged the threat was made after he he warned Putin the war would be an ‘utter catastrophe’ and urged him to abandon his attack, moments after he visited Kyiv to assure Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky that Britain would back his country if Russia invaded.
Details of the exchange were revealed in the BBC documentary Putin Vs the West, which examines the lead-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Mr Johnson said he warned President Putin an invasion would result in unprecedented Western sanctions and more NATO troops at Russia’s borders.
He also told the Russian leader Ukraine would not join NATO ‘for the foreseeable future’ in the hopes Putin would call off military action.
Mr. Johnson said: ‘He said, “Boris, you say that Ukraine is not going to join Nato any time soon… what is any time soon?” And I said, “Well, it’s not going to join Nato for the foreseeable future. You know that perfectly well”.’
‘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,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘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.
‘It is unclear if the Russian leader made the remarks as a legitimate threat.
Mr Johnson played a leading role in galvanising Western support for Ukraine last year at a time when key players including Germany, France and Italy were wobbling.