Feb 8, 2024 - World

Putin tells Tucker Carlson he's "ready to talk" on releasing WSJ journalist

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the plenary session of the Supreme Council of Russia and Belarus, at the Konstantin Palace on January 29, 2024, in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg, Russia, last month. Photo: Contributor/Getty Images

Tucker Carlson's interview with Russian leader Vladimir Putin that aired on the former Fox News journalist's website on Thursday evening lasted for more than two hours.

The big picture: In Putin's first sit-down in Moscow with a Western interviewer since his forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022, he dropped more hints about releasing detained Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich in a possible prisoner swap.

  • Putin used much of the interview to provide lengthy revisionist historical accounts on matters such as Eastern Europe from the 9th century onwards (more than 30 minutes of uninterrupted monologue) and the expansion of NATO while also on occasions praising China.

Zoom in: On possibly releasing 32-year-old Gershkovich, who's been detained since March, Putin noted there's "a person serving a sentence in an allied country of the U.S.," whom he described as a "patriot."

  • "I do not rule out that the person you refer to, Mr. Gershkovich, may return to his motherland," Putin said.
  • He said it "does not make any sense to keep him in prison in Russia" and he wants the "U.S. special services to think about how they can contribute to achieving the goals our special services are pursuing."
  • Putin added: "We are ready to talk, moreover, the talks are on their way."
In this pool photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives an interview to US talk show host Tucker Carlson at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 6, 2024.
In this pool photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik, Tucker Carlson (left) and Russian leader Vladimir Putin during their interview at the Kremlin in Moscow on Feb. 6, which aired Feb. 8. Photo: Gavriil Grigorov/ POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Zoom out: Carlson tried to steer the interview toward current affairs following Putin's monologue on post-World War I Russia and suggested the West feared Moscow more than Beijing.

  • However, Putin said: "The West is afraid of a strong China more than it fears a strong Russia."
  • Putin also lauded China for being on the ascent, with the U.S. dollar under threat.
  • "You cannot prevent the sun from rising. You have to adapt to it," Putin said. "Your political establishment does not understand that the world is changing under objective circumstances."

On Ukraine, Putin suggested the war could soon end if the U.S. and Western allies stopped sending Kyiv weapons.

What they're saying: The WSJ responded to baseless comments Putin made about Gershkovich in a statement after the interview that noted journalism is not a crime, per the Financial Times.

  • "Any portrayal to the contrary is total fiction. Evan was unjustly arrested and has been wrongfully detained by Russia for nearly a year for doing his job, and we continue to demand his immediate release," it added.
  • "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."

Go deeper... How it Happened: Axios Podcast on Putin's Invasion

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