President Vladimir Putin expressed optimism about reaching an agreement to release Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist held in a Russian prison, during a conversation with host Tucker Carlson, who grilled the Russian premier about Gershkovich’s detention.
Putin highlighted ongoing discussions with the U.S. regarding the journalist, who faces espionage charges.
“The special services are in contact with one another. They are talking… I believe an agreement can be reached.”
Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was arrested in Yekaterinburg, located approximately 1,600km east of Moscow, on March 29 of the previous year. His pre-trial detention was extended by Russia until the end of March, with a potential 20-year prison sentence if convicted.
The interview, lasting over two hours, was conducted in Moscow and constitutes the first exchange between a Western journalist and the Russian president. The exchange began with Carlson asking about Putin’s rationale for the Ukraine invasion, questioning the possibility of a surprise U.S. strike on Russia.
“It’s not that America, the United States, was going to launch a surprise strike on Russia,” Putin said.
Putin then delved into Eastern European history, asserting long-standing Russian claims to parts of Ukraine and providing various justifications for the invasion. He reassured that Russia has no intentions of invading Poland, Latvia or other NATO countries, dismissing such scenarios as “absolutely out of the question” and accusing NATO members of fostering fear of an imaginary Russian threat.
Discussing his interactions with American presidents, Putin reminisced about a positive relationship with George W. Bush and mentioned a past conversation with Bill Clinton about Russia potentially joining NATO — a prospect that was later retracted. Putin also acknowledged a personal rapport with Donald Trump but noted he hasn’t spoken with President Joe Biden recently.
The interview’s significance is underscored by the Kremlin’s response to claims by Carlson that no Western journalist had interviewed Putin since 2022. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov corrected this assertion, noting the numerous interview requests from Western reporters, including the BBC, which have been overlooked.
Carlson, who previously led a prime-time show on Fox News before starting his own media company, conducted the interview and is now broadcasting on X.
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