Ex U.K. Leader Boris Johnson Claims Putin Threatened To Kill Him With Missile Before Russia Invaded Ukraine


Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to kill him in a missile strike just weeks before invading Ukraine, a chilling allegation as part of a new BBC documentary examining Moscow’s fractious relationship with Western leaders in the decades-long run up to the invasion last year.

Key Facts

Johnson, speaking to the BBC as part of a new documentary series, said Putin “threatened” him with a missile strike during an “extraordinary” call last February after a visit to Kyiv.

Johnson, who was still the U.K.’s prime minister at the time and later became one of Kyiv’s key Western supporters, said his Russian counterpart told him “I don’t want to hurt you” but a missile “would only take a minute.”

It’s impossible to determine how serious Putin’s threat was and neither the Kremlin nor Downing Street referenced the exchange in records of the call, though Johnson said his counterpart’s “relaxed tone” and “air of detachment” indicated he was “playing along” with his attempts to negotiate.

The threat, made at a time the Kremlin was preparing its troops to invade but denied having any intentions of doing so, was part of a discussion over the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, something Johnson said would not happen for the “foreseeable future.”

Johnson said he warned Putin of NATO’s likely support of Kyiv, tougher Western sanctions and the alliance’s probable build up of forces in the region should Russia attack its neighbor, explaining an invasion would mean “more NATO, not less NATO.”

What To Watch For

Details of Johnson’s conversation with Putin are featured in the first episode of Putin vs the West, a three-part BBC documentary that airs Monday. The series explores the decades-long journey leading Putin’s Russia to invade Ukraine last year, largely through the eyes of the world leaders and high-level diplomats in power at key moments like the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine. Those interviewed include David Cameron, Francois Hollande, Jose Manuel Barroso and Petro Poroshenko—respectively former leaders of the U.K., France, the EU Commission and Ukraine—and Ukraine’s wartime president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Surprising Fact

Though impossible to know how serious Putin’s threat was, the U.K. has accused Russia of carrying out attacks on its soil in recent years. The government charged two Russian men with using a nerve agent, Novichok, to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as well as his daughter, in 2018. Novichok is a complex nerve agent and is only known to have been produced in Russia. Then-Prime Minister Theresa May blamed Putin and expelled diplomats over the failed assassination attempt, which later claimed the life of Dawn Sturgess after she came into contact with the agent on a bottle.

Further Viewing

Putin vs the West airs in the U.K. on Monday. The series has ties to some of the people behind the BBC’s four-part 2012 series Putin, Russia and the West, which examined Putin’s rise to power and his country’s relationship with the West.

Further Reading

Putin vs the West TV review — world leaders face up to failures to stop Russian aggression (Financial Times)

The Skripal poisonings: the bungled assassination with the Kremlin’s fingerprints all over it (Guardian)

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2023/01/30/ex-uk-leader-boris-johnson-claims-putin-threatened-to-kill-him-with-missile-before-russia-invaded-ukraine/