Boris Johnson has compared Vladimir Putin to “the fat boy in Dickens” who wants to “make our flesh creep” with threats of using nuclear weapons.
Speaking about Ukraine at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the former prime minister insisted that the Russian president would not resort to using nuclear weapons, dismissing the idea as “nonsense”.
He said: “Putin wants to present it as a nuclear stand-off between Nato and Russia. Nonsense. He’s not going to use nuclear weapons, okay. He’s like the fat boy in Dickens, he wants to make our flesh creep. He wants us to think about it. He’s never going to do it.”
“He’s not going to do it. Don’t go down that rabbit hole, stop it,” Mr Johnson added.
Mr Johnson, known for his literary references, was citing a servant character in Charles Dickens’ novel, The Pickwick Papers, known as the fat boy, who tells an old lady “I wants to make your flesh creep” with a shocking revelation.
Continuing his commentary on Mr Putin, the former prime minister said launching a nuclear attack would put the Russian president into “a complete economic cryogenic paralysis” and “terrify the Russians”.
He also urged the audience to “stop worrying about Kremlinology,” adding: “It’s difficult to work out what’s gonna happen in UK politics, let alone in the Kremlin.
“What we’ve got to focus on is supporting Ukraine and giving Volodymyr Zelensky the tools he needs to finish the job. And they can win and they will win… Give them the tanks.”
Mr Johnson was joined on a discussion panel by speakers including Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and first vice prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Svyrydenko.
Addressing the event via video link, Ukraine’s president reiterated his call for countries to move faster in supplying weapons to Ukraine.
“The vaccine against Russian tyranny is available,” Mr Zelensky said.
Canada’s deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland also called for more Western support for Ukraine, saying: “I don’t skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going. This puck is going to Ukrainian victory, so let’s skate there.”
Mr Johnson, who received the title of “Honorary Citizen of Kyiv’ at the event by mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko, then chimed in: “Tell Putin to get the puck out of Ukraine.”
It comes as the UK has announced plans to supply Kyiv with British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks.
However, The Independent has been told that Mr Johnson wanted to get rid of the British army tanks now being sent to Ukraine a year before the war started because he believed they had outlived their usefulness on the battlefield.
A senior military officer with detailed knowledge of the discussions at the time said: “We had to fight tooth and nail to retain any armoured capability in the Army.
“The PM and many of his civilian advisors were convinced that the tank, in particular, was no longer relevant in modern warfare.”
A spokesperson for the former prime minister denied the claim, saying: “This is untrue. Boris Johnson did not support scrapping Challenger Tanks in the IR or otherwise.”