Putin tells Tucker Carlson deal can be reached to free jailed US reporter Evan Gershkovich

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Mr Carlson interviewed the Russian president in the Kremlin
By Mike Wendling
BBC News

President Vladimir Putin has said he believes a deal can be reached to free Evan Gershkovich, a US reporter detained last year in Russia.

Speaking with US host Tucker Carlson, Mr Putin indicated talks were ongoing with the US about the journalist, who was held on espionage charges.

In the wide-ranging interview, Putin also defended the war in Ukraine.

It’s the first time the Russian leader has sat down with a Western journalist since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

Mr Putin said he believed a deal could be struck to release Mr Gershkovich, 32, “if our partners take reciprocal steps”.

Last month, Russia again extended the pre-trial detention of the Wall Street journal reporter until the end of March.

The interview, more than two hours long, was filmed in Moscow on Tuesday, Mr Carlson said.

It began with a question about Mr Putin’s reason for ordering the invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

“Tell us why you believe the United States might strike Russia out of the blue,” Mr Carlson asked. “How did you conclude that?”

“It’s not that America, the United States, was going to launch a surprise strike on Russia,” Mr Putin said through a translator. “I didn’t say that. Are we having a talk show or a serious conversation?”

Mr Putin then spoke at length – more than half an hour – about the history of Eastern Europe, beginning with the establishment of the Russian state in the 9th Century.

The Russian president argued that parts of Ukraine had long belonged to Russia. He has given various justifications for the invasion.

Mr Putin also insisted that Russia has no interest in invading Poland, Latvia or other Nato countries, calling such a scenario “absolutely out of the question”.

The Russian leader accused Nato member states of trying to intimidate people with what he called an imaginary Russian threat.

Mr Putin also discussed his relationship with American presidents, repeating a story he has previously mentioned, about Bill Clinton suggesting that Russia could join the Nato alliance, only to withdraw the option shortly afterwards.

He said he had a “very good relationship” with George W Bush.

“He was no worse than any other American or Russian or European politician,” Mr Putin said. “I assure you he understood what he was doing as well as others. I had such [a] personal relationship with Trump as well.”

Mr Putin said he did not recall the last time he spoke to President Joe Biden.

Prior to the interview, Mr Carlson claimed “not a single Western journalist has bothered to interview” Mr Putin since 2022.

But Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told the BBC: “Mr Carlson is not correct, and he couldn’t have known that. We receive a lot of requests for interviews with the president.”

Countless reporters from Western countries, including the BBC’s Russia Editor Steve Rosenberg, have sent the Kremlin repeated interview requests. All of the BBC’s requests have been ignored.

Russian state media spent several days covering Mr Carlson’s visit, broadcasting footage of his various trips to restaurants and a visit to see the Spartacus ballet at the Bolshoi Theater.

Mr Carlson was the highest-rated prime-time host on Fox News until he was taken off air in April 2023, for reasons the channel has never made clear.

He started his own media company and found an outlet on X, formerly Twitter.

Content on the Tucker Carlson Network consists mostly of friendly interviews with right-wing politicians – including a chat with Donald Trump timed to coincide with a Republican presidential debate – and other figures such as Andrew Tate and Russell Brand.

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