London: Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “threatened him with a missile strike during an extraordinary phone call” ahead of Moscow launching its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
He made the remarks in a BBC documentary titled ‘Putin Vs the West’ which will be broadcast on Monday.
“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.
“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 was quoted as saying in the documentary.
The former Prime Minister also said that he warned Putin that invading Ukraine would lead to Western sanctions and more NATO troops on Russia’s borders.
He also tried to deter Russian military action by telling Putin that Ukraine would not join Nato “for the foreseeable future”, the BBC reported.
Johnson further said that “Putin had been very familiar during the most extraordinary call”.
The former leader’s claims however, have been been official verified.
The BBC documentary also features Defence Secretary Ben Wallace who had flown to Moscow on February 11, 2022, to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
The film revealed that Wallace left with assurances that Russia would not invade Ukraine, but he said both sides knew it was a lie.
He described it as a “demonstration of bullying or strength, which is: 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. I think it was about saying ‘I’m powerful'”.
Wallace went on to say that the “fairly chilling, but direct lie” had confirmed his belief that Russia would invade.
As he left the meeting, he said Gen Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of general staff, told him “never again will we be humiliated”.
Less than a fortnight later, as tanks rolled over the border on February 24, 2022, Johnson received a phone call in the middle of the night from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Zelensky’s very, very calm. But, he tells me, you know, they’re attacking everywhere,” the former Prime Minister said, adding that he offered to help move the President to safety.
“He doesn’t take me up on that offer. He heroically stayed where he was.”