Before sending Russian forces into Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin allegedly threatened to personally attack former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson with missiles.
A brand-new BBC documentary that will be aired on Monday claims that the apparent threat came in a phone call immediately before the invasion on February 24.
Johnson and other Western leaders had rushed to Kyiv in an effort to show their support for Ukraine and thwart a Russian assault.
“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,” Johnson quoted Putin as saying.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky found Johnson to be one of the most ardent Western supporters.
However, he claims that he took great care to inform Putin before the invasion that there was no immediate likelihood of Ukraine joining NATO and that any assault would result in “more NATO, not less NATO” on Russia’s borders.
“He said, ‘Boris, you say that Ukraine is not going to join NATO any time soon.
“‘What is any time soon?’ And I said, ‘well it’s not going to join NATO for the foreseeable future. You know that perfectly well.”
On the missile threat, 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.”
In the years leading up to the invasion of Ukraine, the BBC documentary tracks the widening gap between the West and the Russian president.
Zelensky is also shown thinking back on his failed attempts to join NATO before Russia attacked.
“If you know that tomorrow Russia will occupy Ukraine, why don’t you give me something today I can stop it with?” he says.
“Or if you can’t give it to me, then stop it yourself.”