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Kremlin rejects Johnson’s Putin claim

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has rejected the idea that Russian President Vladimir Putin threaten former UK prime minister Boris Johnson.

January 31, 2023
31 January 2023

The Kremlin has rejected Boris Johnson’s assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to threaten the former UK prime minister with a missile strike.

The former Downing Street incumbent made the claim in a new three-part BBC Two TV series about the years leading up to the war in Ukraine.

Johnson, talking about a phone call between the two leaders ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said: “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.”

But the Kremlin disputed the claim, saying there were “no threats with missiles” during the bilateral conversation held in February 2022.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked about Johnson’s comments on Monday, said that the UK politician’s account was untrue, “or, more precisely, it was a lie”.

Peskov said the former Conservative Party leader may have deliberately lied or failed to understand what the Russian leader was telling him.

“There were no threats with missiles,” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters.

“While talking about security challenges to Russia, President Putin said that if Ukraine joins NATO, the potential deployment of US or other NATO missiles near our borders would mean that any such missile could reach Moscow in minutes.”

Johnson told the documentary producers that the “extraordinary” conversation took place last February after he had visited Kyiv in a last-ditch attempt to show support for Ukraine amid growing fears of a Russian assault.

War would break out only days later, with Russia launching its attack on Ukraine on February 24.

Johnson said Putin had a “very relaxed tone” and an “air of detachment” as he spoke.

“He was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate,” Johnson said.

The former prime minister, who left Downing Street in September after being forced from office following a series of controversies, made the visit to Kyiv in early February 2022 to warn Russia that an invasion would prove disastrous.

Since leaving No 10, he has continued to foster relations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, visiting Kyiv again earlier this month.

Downing Street said it would not be drawn on whether Prime Minister Rishi Sunak considers himself safe from a Russian attack.

The current prime minister’s official spokesman, asked if there is a continuing threat to the safety of the UK’s leadership from Putin, said: “I can’t get into specific threats against individuals, particularly senior political figures.

“I think we’re clear that a failure to act in defence of Ukraine could potentially pose a wider risk to the safety of people in the UK.”

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