Boris Johnson said that in a “extraordinary” phone call before Russia invaded Ukraine, Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike.
The then-prime minister said that Mr. Putin told him it “would only take a minute.”
Mr. Boris Johnson said the comment was made after he warned in a “very long” call in February 2022 that the war would be a “complete disaster.”
Details of the conversation are shown in a BBC documentary about how Mr. Putin talks to other world leaders.
Mr. Boris Johnson told Mr. Putin that invading Ukraine would lead to more Nato troops on Russia’s borders and more sanctions from the West.
He also tried to stop Russia from going to war by telling Putin that Ukraine would not join NATO “for the foreseeable future.”
Mr. Johnson, however, said: “At one point, he tried to hurt me. He said something like, “Boris, I don’t want to hurt you, but it would only take a minute with a missile.” Jolly.
“But I think he was just playing along with my attempts to get him to talk by the way he was talking in a very casual way and the way he seemed to be aloof.”
Mr. Johnson said that President Putin had been “very friendly” during the “most extraordinary call.”
No one can tell if Mr. Putin’s threat was real or not.
But because Russia has attacked the UK before, most recently in Salisbury in 2018, Mr. Boris Johnson probably would not have had a choice but to take any threat from the Russian leader seriously, no matter how lightly it was said.
Nine days later, on February 11, Ben Wallace flew to Moscow to meet Sergei Shoigu, who is the Defense Minister of Russia.
In the BBC documentary Putin Vs. the West, it says that Mr. Wallace left with promises that Russia would not invade Ukraine, but he said that both sides knew that was a lie.
He said that it was a “I’m going to lie to you, you know I’m lying, and I know you know I’m lying, but I’m still going to lie to you. This is a sign of bullying or strength.
Mr. Wallace said, “I think it was a way to say, ‘I’m strong.'”
He said that the “fairly scary but straight-forward lie” had made him even more sure that Russia would invade.
Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of general staff, told him as he left the meeting, “We will never be humiliated again,” he said.
Less than two weeks later, on February 24, as tanks were rolling over the border, President Zelensky called Mr. Johnson in the middle of the night.
Mr. Johnson said, “Zelensky is very, very calm.” “But, you know, he tells me, they’re attacking everywhere.”
Mr. Johnson says he offered to help get the president to safety.
“He doesn’t accept what I’m offering. He stayed where he was in a brave way.”
Putin Vs. the West will air on BBC 2 at 21:00 on Monday, January 30, and will be available on the UK’s iPlayer.