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Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a Fox News interview Tuesday evening that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to mess with his mind when Putin allegedly suggested that he could kill Johnson.
Johnson said during a BBC documentary, “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.”
Johnson was asked about the remarks during an interview on “Special Report” with Bret Baier.
Baier noted that the Russians have pushed back strongly against that claim and that some in the U.K., like former Brexit party leader Nigel Farage, have doubted the story.
“As ever with Boris Johnson, lots of personality, lots of color, good story, but when it comes to facts, when it comes to detail, when it comes to the absolute truth, I think Boris Johnson’s relationship with those things is somewhat loose, to put it mildly,” Farage said.
When asked to respond to Farage’s claims, Johnson said, “Well, look, I think that the Kremlin — and I don’t know if Nigel’s speaking for the Kremlin, but the Kremlin are fabled for their complete refusal to tell the truth about anything that’s happening in Ukraine.”
“I think what Putin was trying to do that was creep me out and try to — what he was doing, Bret, was trying to reduce it to a story about a nuclear standoff between — between Russia and NATO. And so that’s why he talks about, ‘I don’t want to harm you with a missile,’” he continued. “He wants it to be about Russia vs. NATO, and he wants to drag in the whole nuclear issue. We have got to avoid being sucked down that rabbit hole. This is not what it’s about. It’s about the invasion of a completely innocent country, right, a European democracy, that was no conceivable threat to Russia.”
On Special Report with Bret Baier. former PM Boris Johnson tackled Russia/Putin, claiming the world basically "allowed him to invade Ukraine" without real punishment. pic.twitter.com/OAWMCVvf0c
— Jason Rantz on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) February 1, 2023
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Russia claims to have captured a Ukrainian village north of Bakhmut, which is part of the Donbas region.
Air and missile strikes were reported in other parts of Ukraine. Ukraine’s defense minister says he’s optimistic more Western military aid could be on the way. This comes as President Biden says the U.S. will not be providing F-16 fighter jets.
Tonight, we’re pleased to welcome former Prime Minister of the U.K. Boris Johnson to “Special Report,” just returned from his most recent trip to Ukraine, where he had in-depth discussions with President Zelenskyy.
Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for the time.
BORIS JOHNSON, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Such a pleasure, Bret. And good to be on your show.
BAIER: You were the first Western leader to go into Ukraine and meet with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
As you look at the map now and what has transpired since that time, what do you see and what do you hear from President Zelenskyy?
JOHNSON: So, I was back in Ukraine just a couple of weeks ago.
And the situation is a bit better in Kyiv. But I saw the devastation around that city, the lives ruined, the totally destroyed apartment blocks. And that’s nothing compared to what’s happening in the areas that Putin is still attacking.
And so that the message I really have, Bret, for you, for all our viewers is, this is not the moment to delay any support for Ukraine. This is the moment to double down on our support. Give them what they need, whether it’s the tanks or the long-range artillery fires. They need to kick Putin out of the whole of the territory.
And I know how people in America have done an incredible job. The faster Putin gets out of Ukraine, the quicker we return to stability, and the more powerful the message we send to people like China that the West, that America, the U.K., the West will not tolerate aggressive attempts to change borders by force.
So, stick with it.
BAIER: You know, you wrote in an op-ed about Putin paved the way for Ukrainian entrance into NATO.
And then you write: “Instead of properly punishing him, Putin, we responded with a policy of craven appeasement. Ukrainians should be given everything they need to finish this war as quickly as possible.”
You think there is any lack of will? Do you sense that? You were just up on Capitol Hill.
JOHNSON: Yes, so I just — I just talked to Lindsey Graham. I talked to Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy — Speaker McCarthy, loads of others.
I find there’s a massive amount of bipartisan support. And look, I want to pay tribute to the Biden administration. What they did, what Joe did, what Joe Biden did, what all his people did in very difficult circumstances was, they stepped up to the plate and they gave Ukraine what it needed.
What I think we all need to do now is go further and save time, save money, save lives, and give the Ukrainians what they — what they need. And you mentioned the appeasement point. This all goes back to our failure in 2014 to punish Putin properly for what he had done. And we put on some sanctions, but they weren’t really very tough. But we basically allowed him to invade Ukraine, invaded — you remember, he took the Crimea and he took the eastern parts of the Donbas.
And then he kept twisting the knife in the wound, and we never really punished him for it.
BAIER: You said something in a British documentary about Putin, saying that you felt that he was threatening you at one of the conversations you had about “I could fire a missile,” essentially, “to take you out.”
BAIER: The Russians pushed back on that characterization very hard.
BAIER: Some of your own countrymen raised questions about it.
Here’s Nigel Farage on our air the other day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIGEL FARAGE, FORMER BREXIT PARTY LEADER: As ever with Boris Johnson, lots of personality, lots of color, good story, but when it comes to facts, when it comes to detail, when it comes to the absolute truth, I think Boris Johnson’s relationship with those things is somewhat loose, to put it mildly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: Yes. Well…
BAIER: Well, I wanted to get you to respond to that directly.
Well, look, I think that the Kremlin — and I don’t know if Nigel’s speaking for the Kremlin, but the Kremlin are fabled for their complete refusal to tell the truth about anything that’s happening in Ukraine.
I think what Putin was trying to do that was creep me out and try to — what he was doing, Bret, was trying to reduce it to a story about a nuclear standoff between — between Russia and NATO. And so that’s why he talks about, “I don’t want to harm you with a missile.”
He’s — he wants — he wants it to be about Russia vs. NATO, and he wants to drag in the whole nuclear issue. We have got to avoid being sucked down that rabbit hole. This is not what it’s about. It’s about the invasion of a completely innocent country, right, a European democracy, that was no conceivable threat to Russia.
And what we’re doing is using conventional weapons to support the Ukrainians and to help them to protect themselves. Our problem is Ukraine. We should focus on helping the Ukrainians, and not worrying about what Putin is going to do next.
BAIER: A couple of quick questions about the U.K.
Why is there not a trade agreement specifically between the U.K. and the U.S. post-Brexit? And do you think that that hurts the relationship?
JOHNSON: Bret, I’m glad you said that.
And I think that there needs to be a free trade agreement as fast as possible. And our side is definitely on for it. I think one of the things that the world needs is more free trade. I’m afraid I’m on that side of the argument. I’m not a — I’m not an isolationist. I don’t believe in a mercantilist approach to the economy.
I’m delighted to say that the U.S. has lifted its ban on British beef. And I think you have lifted your ban on British lamb, which is fantastic. Wham, bam, thank you, lamb. You can have some of that.
JOHNSON: But where — why not do a big free trade deal?
All the evidence is that these deals increase growth, boost jobs, boost high-wage jobs. Let’s do it.
JOHNSON: I don’t think either side has anything — anything to fear.
BAIER: Let me end where I began. Just a few seconds left.
And that is on the weapons going in.
BAIER: Do you think Ukraine is getting these F-16 fighter planes, despite what the administration is saying and the president’s saying?
JOHNSON: Bret, all I will say is that every time we have said that it will be a mistake to give such and such an item of weaponry, we end up doing it, and it ends up being the right thing for Ukraine.
I remember being told that it was the wrong idea to give them the anti-tank shoulder-launched missiles. Actually, they were indispensable, and the United States, under Donald Trump, gave them the Javelins as well. They were indispensable in those battles to repel the Russian tanks.
People said that we shouldn’t give the HIMARS. I remember having arguments about the multiple-launch rocket systems, the MLRS. Actually, they proved invaluable for the Ukrainians.
BAIER: So, you think they’re going in?
JOHNSON: And the same with tanks, same with tanks, Bret. We said the same about tanks.
Look, all I’m saying is, save time, save money, save lives. Give the Ukrainians what they need as fast as possible. Get this thing done. Forget about Putin. Go for economic stability, long-term peace and prosperity. That’s what America…
BAIER: And for the people who say they’re worried about World War III, they’re worried about tactical nuclear weapons, they’re worried about Putin being backed up into a wall, and then we get…
JOHNSON: That’s — that’s what he wants you to think. That’s what he wants you to think.
And I will tell you why that’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen for — because he would lose the Chinese immediately. He loses all his support from the swing voters, from the Indians, the sub-Saharan Africans, and so on, the Gulf states, people who are kind of cutting him too much slack at the moment. He absolutely terrifies his own population, who worry about reprisals.
You know what? He probably doesn’t even stop the Ukrainians if he did that. And we would put his economy into such a cryogenic paralysis that Russia would — wouldn’t come out of it for decades.
So, he’s not going to do that.
BAIER: Well, Prime Minister…
JOHNSON: What he needs to do is get himself out of this mess as fast as possible.
That means Ukraine winning, Putin losing. Let’s give the Ukrainians what they need.
BAIER: Former Prime Minister of the U.K. Boris Johnson, we appreciate your time.
JOHNSON: Thank you. Thank you.