Putin uses Tucker Carlson interview to press his Ukraine narrative, hints at swapping WSJ reporter

Putin uses Tucker Carlson interview to press his Ukraine narrative, hints at swapping WSJ reporter

Putin uses Tucker Carlson interview to press his Ukraine narrative, hints at swapping WSJ reporter

Russian President Vladimir Putin used an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson to push his narrative on the war in Ukraine, urge Washington to recognize Moscow's interests and press Kyiv to sit down for talks.

For more than two hours, a largely unchallenged Putin showered Carlson with Russian history and Kremlin talking points.

Putin repeated his claim the full-scale invasion in February 2022 — which Kyiv and its allies describe as an unprovoked act of aggression — was to protect Russian interests and prevent Ukraine from posing a threat to Russia by joining NATO.

Released Thursday, it was Putin’s first interview with a Western media figure since the invasion.

Putin said it’s up to Washington to stop supplying weapons to Ukraine, which he called a U.S. “satellite,” and persuade Kyiv to negotiate, saying a deal was the way to end the war.

“We have never refused negotiations,” Putin said. “You should tell the current Ukrainian leadership to stop and come to a negotiating table.”

Putin said the West won't succeed in inflicting a “strategic defeat” on Russia in Ukraine and rejected allegations that Moscow harbors plans to attack Poland or other NATO countries.

He said Russia is ready to negotiate a prisoner exchange for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was jailed in March 2023 on espionage charges he denies. He suggested Moscow wants the release of a Russian imprisoned in Germany.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby tried to minimize the impact of Carlson’s interview ahead of its release, saying, “Remember, you’re listening to Vladimir Putin. And you shouldn’t take at face value anything he has to say.”

Russian media on Friday gave the interview blanket coverage, with major broadcasters showing excerpts and one state news agency describing it as “a dagger blow through the curtain of propaganda of the dishonest media of the civilized world.”

Before leaving Fox, Carlson repeatedly questioned the validity of U.S. support for Ukraine following Russia's invasion, asking why Americans are told to hate Putin so much. His commentaries were frequently circulated on Russian state-run media.

Asked why the Kremlin granted Carlson's interview request out of many from Western media, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the former Fox host's position is different from a “one-sided” stance by other outlets.

Putin has heavily limited his contact with international media since invading Ukraine in February 2022. Russian authorities have cracked down on independent media at home, forcing some outlets to close and blocking others, while also ordering a number of foreign reporters to leave. 

Asked by Carlson if Russia would release Gershkovich, Putin said Moscow is open to talks but repeated he was charged with espionage, an accusation Gershkovich denies.

“He was caught red-handed when he was secretly getting classified information,” Putin said, adding that he doesn't exclude the reporter could return home.

In a statement, the Journal reaffirmed that Gershkovich “is a journalist, and journalism is not a crime,” adding that “any portrayal to the contrary is total fiction.”

“We’re encouraged to see Russia’s desire for a deal that brings Evan home, and we hope this will lead to his rapid release and return to his family and our newsroom,” it said.

Putin said Russia is “ready to solve it but there are certain conditions that are being discussed between special services. I believe an agreement can be reached."