Johnson denies his attitude to breakdown of Ukraine-Russia peace talks in spring 2022 – The Times

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in an interview with The Times published on Wednesday, denied Moscow's claims that he prohibited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from "signing a peace agreement with Russia" and ordered him to "continue the war."

In particular, Johnson called such statements by the Kremlin "total nonsense and Russian propaganda."

According to the publication, whenJohnson met President Zelenskyy in Kyiv in April 2022, he was one of the first western leaders to visit Ukraine since the start of Russia's invasion. In Kyiv, Johnson was lauded for his bravery and his support for the besieged Ukrainian nation. Back home, his critics suggested that the prime minister was perhaps glad of the chance to divert attention from the political scandals that would eventually lead to his downfall.

"In Russia, however, Johnson’s trip to Ukraine is now being portrayed by the Kremlin as something far more sinister: an intervention that derailed a peace deal between Kyiv and Moscow, ensuring that there would be no early end to the biggest conflict in Europe since 1945," The Times said.

According to the publication, in recent months Moscow has accused Johnson of vetoing an agreement that it says would have led to Russia withdrawing troops, in exchange for Kyiv abandoning its aspirations to join NATO and pledging neutrality.

Thus, last year Putin showed African leaders at a meeting in St Petersburg what he said was a signed draft agreement between Russia and Ukraine that would have set limits on Kyiv's armed forces in return for the Kremlin calling off its invasion. Putin also claimed last month at his annual press conference that the deal had been agreed but was later "chucked away into the stove." Ukraine says no deals were signed and that any final agreements would only have been possible at a meeting between Putin and Zelenskyy.

Also, Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, claimed late last year that Johnson had ordered Zelenskyy not to agree to any peace deals with Moscow. "Johnson banned Kyiv from signing a peace agreement with Russia following negotiations in Istanbul at the end of March 2022 and demanded the continuation of hostilities against Russia," she said.

According to Johnson himself, quoted in an interview with The Times, during a conversation with Zelenskyy in Kyiv after the Istanbul talks, "he [Johnson] had been concerned about the nature of any potential agreement and had pledged that Britain would support Ukraine "a thousand per cent."

"I was a bit worried at that stage. I could not see for the life of me what the deal could be, and I thought that any deal with Putin was going to be pretty sordid," he told The Wall Street Journal.

The Times also quoted former advisor to the White House Angela Stent, she found it hard to imagine that any western politician would be able to successfully order Zelenskyy to take decisions. "Western officials have on occasion found Zelenskyy resistant to some of the things that they were suggesting," she said, citing widely reported disagreements between Kyiv and U.S. officials over the tactics for Ukraine's failed counteroffensive last year.

As reported, representatives of Ukraine and Russia held regular negotiations in Istanbul on March 29 to resolve the hostilities.