Putin threatened missile strike on UK before Ukraine war, Boris Johnson says
Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to direct a Russian missile strike at Britain in the leadup to his invasion of Ukraine, Boris Johnson said in a new hair-raising disclosure.
In an interview with the BBC, Johnson, who was serving as British prime minister when Russia invaded its neighbor, recalled Putin telling him: “Boris, I don’t want to hurt you, but with a missile it would only take a minute.”
Johnson said Putin’s warning came during a dialogue about Ukraine’s potential path into NATO, a 30-member military alliance, and after the British leader suggested a war would be catastrophic, according to the BBC. The broadcaster interviewed the former prime minister for a documentary.
Moscow had sought a reduction in NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe, and the prevention of Ukraine’s entry into the bloc, before the Russian Army launched Europe’s largest invasion since World War II.
“Boris, you say that Ukraine is not going to join NATO any time soon,” Putin told Johnson in English, according to the British leader’s account. “What is any time soon?
Johnson said he replied, “Well, it’s not going to join NATO for the foreseeable future; you know that perfectly well.”
Putin took a “very relaxed tone” during the call, said Johnson, who led Britain from July 2019 until last September.
Russian forces invaded Ukraine last February after a series of feckless attempts by European leaders to convince Moscow not to carry out its war designs. Johnson visited Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, less than two months into the grinding conflict.
The Kremlin rejected Johnson’s account of the pre-war conversation between Johnson and Putin.
“What was said by Mr. Johnson is untrue. To be more precise, this is a lie,” Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Putin, told reporters on Monday, according to the Tass news agency, a Kremlin mouthpiece.
The exchange did not appear in readouts of any phone calls between Putin and Johnson, the BBC reported, though such statements are limited in scope and detail.
The office of Britain’s current prime minister, Rishi Sunak, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily News.
During the 11-month-old war, Putin has sometimes hinted at the threat of nuclear war in Europe. President Joe Biden has dismissed Putin’s nuclear saber rattling.