In the lead-up to the invasion of Ukraine, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike during a phone call. Moscow has refuted this claim.
In an interview with the BBC for a documentary, Johnson claimed that the Russian president had enquired about the likelihood of Ukraine joining NATO and that Johnson had informed him that it would not happen “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 said, recalling the “very long” and “most extraordinary” call in February 2022 which followed a visit by the then prime minister to Kyiv.
“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.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters what Johnson had said was not true, or “more precisely, a lie”.
Relations between Moscow and London had sunk to their lowest level in decades even before Russia invaded Ukraine, on the back of the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the British city of Salisbury in 2018.
Johnson, who stepped down in September in the wake of a series of scandals, sought to position London as Kyiv’s top ally in the West. While in office he visited Kyiv several times and called Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy frequently. He also visited again this month.