Russian President Vladimir Putin rambled during a bombshell interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson about his unprovoked war in Ukraine — and it quickly got over 100 million views on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Putin urged America to recognize Moscow’s interests over its own, and pressed Ukraine to sit down for peace talks.
For more than two hours, Putin showered Carlson with Russian history dating back as far as the 8th century to justify his invasion of Ukraine, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides.
Putin repeated his claim the full-scale invasion in February 2022 — which was an unprovoked act of aggression — was to protect Russian interests and prevent Ukraine from posing a threat to Russia by joining NATO.
In the lead up to the invasion, Russia repeatedly denied they were preparing to attack their neighbor and dismissed repeated warnings from the U.S. military.
Released Thursday, it was Putin’s first interview with a Western media figure since the invasion.
Appearing confident and at ease, he made occasional friendly jabs at Carlson, who appeared baffled by the rambling history lecture and tried to interject questions, but the 71-year-old Russian leader droned on largely uninterrupted.
“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 spies imprisoned in Germany as an exchange.
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 contrarian view of U.S. foreign policy are frequently circulated on Russian state-run propaganda.
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. Besides the Journal’s Gershkovich, it also has jailed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Alsu Kurmasheva.
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.”
He pointed to a man imprisoned in a “U.S.-allied country” for “liquidating a bandit” who had killed Russian soldiers during fighting in the Caucasus. Putin didn’t mention names but appeared to refer to Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany after being convicted of the 2019 killing of Zelimkhan “Tornike” Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian citizen of Chechen ethnicity.
German judges said Krasikov acted on the orders of Russian authorities, who gave him a false identity and passport and resources to carry out the killing.
But don’t take our word for it. Watch the entire interview here —
Ep. 73 The Vladimir Putin Interview pic.twitter.com/67YuZRkfLL
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) February 8, 2024
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article