Putin Talks Ukraine Aims, Evan Gershkovich, and the 2024 U.S. Election With Tucker Carlson

Bianca Echa

Putin Talks Ukraine Aims, Evan Gershkovich, and the 2024 U.S. Election With Tucker Carlson

President Vladimir Putin said Russia hasn’t achieved its objectives in Ukraine yet, adding in an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that he would consider negotiations if the U.S. stops supplying weapons to Kyiv.

“We haven’t yet achieved our goals,” Putin said in the Feb. 6 interview in Moscow, which Carlson posted on his website Thursday. It’s the first time the Russian leader has given an interview to a western media figure since he ordered the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. 

“We’re conveying to the U.S. leadership that if you really want to stop military action, then you need to stop supplying weapons, then it will all be over in a few weeks and we’ll be able to discuss some terms,” Putin said.

The U.S. and its allies have rejected Russia’s demands for such capitulation, however, and there’s no sign that either side is ready for serious talks as the war nears the two-year mark.

Read More: Tech Companies Turned Ukraine Into an AI War Lab

Carlson, a conservative firebrand and Donald Trump supporter, has used his media platform to question U.S. support for Ukraine and defend the Kremlin. Russian state television regularly airs clips from his posts.

Prisoner swap

In the interview, Putin suggested a deal can be reached to release jailed U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, hinting that the Wall Street Journal reporter could be returned in a prisoner swap.

“We have certain conditions that are being discussed through channels between special services,” Putin, 71, said. “I believe an agreement can be reached.”

He alluded to the case of a man he called a “patriot” who was jailed for murder in a European country, an apparent reference to Vadim Krasikov, who is serving a life sentence in Germany for the 2019 killing of a former Chechen rebel in Berlin. Russia has previously suggested it’s seeking Krasikov’s return in prisoner-swap talks.

In response to questions from Carlson, Putin also reiterated charges against Gershkovich that have been roundly rejected by the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government, which says the reporter was “wrongfully detained” by Moscow.

In a statement after the Putin interview was released, the Wall Street Journal said it was “encouraged to see Russia’s desire for a deal that brings Evan home,” calling the spying allegations against him “fiction.”

Most of Carlson’s two-hour conversation with the Russian leader was devoted to repetitions of Putin’s long-standing criticisms of the U.S. and its allies, and his controversial views on the history of Ukraine-Russia relations.

Presidential politics

With the 2024 U.S. presidential election looming, Putin dismissed Carlson’s suggestion that a change in administration in the U.S. could lead to a different approach to the war. “It’s not a matter of the leader,” he said. “It’s the mindset of the elite.”

Putin added that he had “a good personal relationship” with President George W. Bush and a similar one with Trump when he was in the White House. He said he hadn’t spoken to President Joe Biden since before the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Trump, who appears likely to clinch the Republican nomination as he seeks to return to the White House, has said he would consider Carlson as a potential running mate against Biden in November.

Ahead of the interview, Carlson said in a video post that “most Americans have no idea why Putin invaded Ukraine, or what his goals are now.” 

Moscow welcome

Over more than two hours, Carlson did little to challenge Putin as the Russian leader laid out his claims for why the US and its allies are to blame for the war in Ukraine.

Though Carlson said ahead of the Moscow meeting that “not a single western journalist has bothered to interview” Putin, the Kremlin said it has turned down numerous requests from other media, preferring Carlson’s less-confrontational approach.

The former Fox News personality was welcomed to Moscow even as the Kremlin has imposed the most stringent crackdown in decades to crush domestic criticism of the war. Opponents of the invasion have been jailed or fled into exile, while lawmakers last month unanimously passed a new law allowing the state to confiscate the property of anyone convicted of “discrediting” the Russian military’s actions in Ukraine. 

The interview took place as more than $60 billion of U.S. military aid to Ukraine is mired in partisan bickering, with Biden blaming Trump for sinking the most recent attempt in Congress to reach a deal. Ukraine has warned it’s running low on ammunition to defend itself against Russian forces occupying parts of the country’s east and south.

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