Russian President Vladimir Putin told Boris Johnson it would only “take a minute” to kill him in an ordered missile strike, the former British prime minister has claimed.
In a new BBC documentary, Johnson recounted a telephone call he had with the Russian president at the peak of the war in Ukraine during his tenure as Britain’s prime minister.
During a conversation about Ukraine’s potential future membership in NATO, Johnson claimed Putin had threatened him with a missile strike, which he could order at any time.
“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 told the British public broadcaster.
“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.”
Johnson recalled Putin appearing “very familiar” during the “most extraordinary call.”
On Monday, Russian sources sought to dismiss Johnson’s remarks, calling his account a “lie.”
Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow that he didn’t know whether the former British prime minister had lied deliberately or “simply didn’t understand what President Putin was talking about,” suggesting that if the latter was true, “people should be concerned for Johnson.”
“There were no missile threats,” Peskov insisted. “When he explained challenges to the security of the Russian Federation, President Putin remarked that if Ukraine joins NATO, the potential deployment of NATO or American missiles at our borders would mean that any missile could reach Moscow in mere minutes,” he added.
The BBC documentary “Putin vs the West” provides a detailed overview of the lead-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including an account from Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace who traveled to Moscow just days before the attack.
He recalled how he held talks with Kremlin officials who insisted the country would not invade Ukraine, but he left Moscow feeling more certain than ever that an attack was imminent.
“I’m going to lie to you, you know I’m lying, and I know you know I’m lying, and I’m still going to lie to you,” Wallace said of the talks, claiming the Russian stance was a clear “demonstration of bullying or strength.”