Vladimir Putin threatened to assassinate Boris Johnson in the run-up to the Ukraine war, news broke last night.
The former prime minister said the Russian leader had bragged that it would “take just a minute” to kill him with a missile after warning him to abandon plans to attack Ukraine.
The shocking threat was made in February last year after Johnson visited Kyiv to assure Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky that Britain would back his country if Russia invaded.
Johnson said that upon his return he had “a very long and extraordinary call” with Putin. At the time, the Russian president was publicly denying that he planned to invade Ukraine, despite massing tens of thousands of troops on its borders.
Boris Johnson said Vladimir Putin bragged it would “take just a minute” to kill him with a missile after warning him to drop plans to attack Ukraine.
Johnson said that upon his return he had “a very long and extraordinary call” with Putin.
Johnson told him the war would be an “absolute catastrophe” and would trigger unprecedented Western sanctions. He downplayed the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, given opposition from members including France and Germany, but warned that the war could galvanize support behind Kyiv and result in “more NATO, not less NATO” on the borders. From Russia.
Johnson said: “He said: ‘Boris, you say Ukraine is not joining NATO anytime soon… what is it anytime soon?’ And I said, “Well, it’s not going to join NATO for the foreseeable future. You know it perfectly well.”
“He 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.'”
“I think because of the very relaxed tone he was taking, the kind of nonchalant air he seemed to have, he was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate.”
The revelation comes in a BBC documentary series called Putin v the West, which will air tonight.
Johnson played a leading role in galvanizing Western support for Ukraine last year at a time when key players including Germany, France and Italy were reeling.
He confirmed that there were “differences of opinion” with the Western allies, as some were reluctant to stop relying on Russian oil and gas. “One argument that was made, particularly by our German friends, was that creative ambiguity was needed when it came to sanctions,” he said.
Johnson said: “He 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.'”
The staggering threat was made in February last year, after Johnson visited Kyiv to assure Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) that Britain would back his country if Russia invaded.
Zelensky shook hands with the former prime minister when he visited him again on January 22 amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
I myself did not understand that. I thought you’d just tell them, “We’re going to cut off Russian oil and gas, we’re going to sanction every single one of their oligarchs, we’re going to seize their yachts,” and I thought I’d brought everyone with me.
‘Y [then-Italian PM] Mario Draghi said: “Look, I’m sorry, I literally just have to say that we can’t do this. We cannot do without Russian oil and gas.”
Johnson has remained a thorn in Putin’s side since leaving office, making a series of high-profile interventions designed to prevent Western leaders from backing down. Last week he again visited Zelensky in Ukraine to help bolster support for the president’s demand for more Western tanks.
In a rallying cry to the Daily Mail, Mr Johnson wrote: ‘What conceivable reasons can there be for the delay? Why don’t we give Ukrainians all the help they need, now, when they need it?’
The former prime minister also dismissed Putin’s threats to deploy his nuclear arsenal if the West steps up its support for Kyiv, saying it would “become a global pariah and plunge Russia into a state of cryogenic economic exclusion that would make current sanctions seem moderate”.
Within days, Germany and the United States announced they would supply tanks to Ukraine, sparking fury in the Kremlin.
Johnson has remained a thorn in Putin’s side since leaving office, making a series of high-profile interventions designed to prevent Western leaders from backing down.
Johnson reveals that he agreed to step up military support for Ukraine in June 2021 after receiving a “secret letter” from Defense Secretary Ben Wallace outlining the imminent Russian threat. Wallace said he flew to Moscow shortly before the outbreak of the war for talks with his counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, and Army General Valery Gerasimov, who now has overall command of Russia’s war effort. He said: ‘I remember telling Minister Shoigu: ‘They will fight’, and he said: ‘My mother is Ukrainian, they won’t!’ He also said that he had no intention of invading.
“I remember that as we were leaving, General Gerasimov said: “We will never be humiliated again. We used to be the fourth army in the world, now we are number 2. Now it is the United States and us. And there, in that minute, was that feeling of why potentially [they were doing this].’
Putin v the West will air on BBC Two at 9pm
Johnson was told to stop asking Richard Sharp for loan advice days before Sharp became BBC president, a leaked Cabinet Office memo shows.
Johnson and Sharp sought advice in early December 2020 over the former’s desire to accept an £800,000 loan from Canadian businessman Sam Blyth.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case commissioned the advice three days after a meeting with Sharp on December 4. But 18 days later, he warned the former prime minister to avoid speaking to his former mayoral adviser, whose appointment is now under review following claims he helped secure a loan before taking over the BBC role.
The December 22, 2020 warning, seen by The Sunday Times, read: “Given the imminent announcement of Richard Sharp as the new BBC Chairman, it is important that you no longer seek his advice on your personal financial matters.”
A spokesperson for Mr Johnson said: “Richard Sharp has never given Boris Johnson any financial advice, nor has Mr Johnson sought any financial advice from him.”