Boris Johnson, Vladimir Putin
Ian Vogler-WPA Pool/Getty; SERGEI GUNEYEV/Sputnik/AFP via Getty
Russian President Vladimir Putin once allegedly threatened British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that it “would only take a minute” to strike the UK with a missile.
Johnson, who stepped down as prime minister in July 2022, said in a new BBC documentary that Putin “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. Jolly.”
“But 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,” Johnson added.
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A Kremlin spokesperson told the BBC the claim was a “lie,” though the Russian president has made vague threats in the past — particularly as his military underperforms amid its invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues after the country invaded in late February 2022, with forces moving from the north, south and east. Putin has insisted Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and he is acting in the interest of so-called “peacekeeping,” though thousands have been killed (and millions more displaced) as a result of the conflict.
In September, Putin called for a partial mobilization of Russian citizens amid the invasion, saying in a speech: “When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. It’s not a bluff,” per a Reuters report.
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Back in October, President Joe Biden issued a stark warning about Putin’s nuclear threats, saying the world is as close to nuclear “Armageddon” as it has been in decades.
“First time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have a direct threat of the use [of a] nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going,” Biden, 79, told the crowd at the event. “I’m trying to figure out what is Putin’s off ramp?”
Biden continued: “Where does [Putin] find a way out? Where does he find himself in a position that he does not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?”
Elsewhere in the speech, Biden said the world has “not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE’s complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.