Putin compared to 'fat boy in Dickens' by Boris who says Russian leader will not use nuclear weapons

Boris Johnson receiving an honorary "Citizen of Kyiv" medal from the city's Mayor, Vitali Klitschko, at the World Economic Forum.
Boris Johnson speaking with Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko at the World Economic Forum. Credit: AP

Boris Johnson has said Russian President Vladimir Putin will not use nuclear weapons, comparing him to "the fat boy in Dickens" who wants to "make our flesh creep" with hollow threats.

The former prime minister was speaking at a breakfast event on Ukraine at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, where he was introduced as a "legendary figure" in Ukraine.

Asked what he thought was going through Mr Putin's mind, Mr Johnson warned against spending too much time obsessing about the Russian leader or worrying about the escalation of the conflict.

Mr Johnson said: "Putin wants to present it as a nuclear stand-off between Nato and Russia.

"Nonsense. He's not going to use nuclear weapons, OK. 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."

Mr Johnson is known to pepper his speeches with literary references, here 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.

He argued that deploying nuclear weapons would put President Putin into "a complete economic cryogenic paralysis", turn states such as China and India against him, and "terrify the Russians".

"He’s not going to do it. Don’t go down that rabbit hole, stop it," Mr Johnson added.

Mr Johnson also urged the audience to "stop worrying about Kremlinology", quipping: "It's difficult to work out what's gonna happen in UK politics, let alone in the Kremlin."

He continued: "What we've got to focus on is supporting Ukraine and giving Volodymyr Zelenskyy the tools he needs to finish the job. And they can win and they will win…

"Give them the tanks."

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Mr Johnson was joined on the discussion panel by speakers including Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte; Yulia Svyrydenko, first vice prime minister of Ukraine; US climate envoy John Kerry and Canada's deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland.

Ms Freeland used an ice hockey analogy to call 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 chimed in: "Tell Putin to get the puck out of Ukraine", prompting laughter from the audience.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated his call for countries to move faster in supplying weapons as he addressed the event by video link.

"The vaccine against Russian tyranny is available," he said.

The UK has announced plans to supply Kyiv with British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks.