Russian President Vladimir Putin “threatened” Boris Johnson with a missile attack shortly before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the former British PM has claimed.

 

According to a new BBC documentary to be aired this evening, the threat was made in a phone call conducted during the flurry of diplomatic activity in the run up to Feb. 24 last year.

 

"He sort of 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," Johnson quoted Putin as saying.

 

Johnson and other Western leaders had been hurrying to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine and try to deter a Russian attack, and the British PM emerged as one of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s most impassioned backers.

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Prior to the invasion, Johnson says he was at pains to tell Putin that there was no imminent prospect of Ukraine joining NATO, while warning him that any invasion would mean "more NATO, not less NATO" on Russia's borders, AFP reports.

 

"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'," Johnson added.

 

"I think from the very relaxed tone that he was taking and the sort of air of detachment that he seemed to have, he was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate."

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Russia has arrested and imprisoned dozens of people for allegedly cooperating with Ukraine's army and intelligence agencies since it launched its full-scale military offensive in February 2022.

 

The Kremlin on Monday dismissed Johnson's claim as a "lie" and insisted there were no "missile threats". 

 

"What Mr Johnson said is not true. More precisely it's a lie," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

 

"Moreover, this is either a conscious lie – then you need to ask Mr Johnson for what purpose he chose this version of events – or it was unintentional and in fact he didn't understand what President Putin was talking to him about.

 

"I know what was discussed during this conversation... There were no missile threats."

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The BBC documentary charts the growing divide between the Russian leader and the West in the years before the invasion of Ukraine.

 

It also features Zelensky reflecting on his thwarted ambitions to join NATO prior to Russia's attack.

 

"If you know that tomorrow Russia will occupy Ukraine, why don't you give me something today I can stop it with?" he says.

 

"Or if you can't give it to me, then stop it yourself."

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