In a new documentary about Vladimir Putin's relations with Western leaders, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recounted a conversation that is causing double-takes. During a long call between the two in the run-up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Johnson says Putin breezily talked about hitting the UK leader with a missile, reports the BBC:
- "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. You know ... jolly." (See the clip from Putin vs the West via the Guardian.)
Johnson added: "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." A Putin spokesperson says Johnson's claim about the threat is "either a deliberate falsehood, in which case you need to ask Mr. Johnson why he lied, or it was not a deliberate lie. That is, he didn't understand what President Putin was saying to him." Either way, added Dmitry Peskov, "there were no threats to use missiles."
The BBC documentary by Norma Percy focuses on how Western leaders dealt with Putin in the years preceding his decision to invade Ukraine. The three-part film begins airing on Monday. Percy tells the AP she doesn't think the Russian leader was issuing a serious threat, but “it was a reminder that he could do it, and (Johnson) should remember that when he is dealing with him.” (Read more Boris Johnson stories.)