Putin: US 'needs to stop supplying weapons' to Ukraine and urge Kyiv to hold peace talks

Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking during an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking during an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Copyright Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik
By Joshua Askew with AP
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The West will never succeed in inflicting a "strategic defeat" on Russia in Ukraine, the Russian president warned.

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Vladimir Putin has told former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that Washington should recognise Moscow's interests and persuade Ukraine to sit down for talks.

The Russian president also said he believes a deal can be reached to release US reporter Evan Gershkovich, detained in Russia last March. 

Thursday night's interview is the first time Putin has sat down with a Western journalist since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

The Russian leader repeated many well-worn disputed justifications about the conflict, including that it was necessary to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine and prevent the country from posing a threat to Russia by joining NATO.

He also mentioned various false narratives that the Kyiv government is filled with neo-Nazis and about Ukrainian history. 

The interview was a major scoop for the Trump-supporting right-wing commentator Carlson, who has frequently criticised US support for Ukraine and referred to Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a “Ukrainian pimp” and “rat-like”.

Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, gestures as he speaks during an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, gestures as he speaks during an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik

The decision to interview Putin was widely criticised, with Carlson falsely claiming that no Western journalists had "bothered" to speak to Putin directly. 

The Kremlin looks set to benefit from the exposure to a wider audience in the US, where war fatigue is on the rise and efforts to secure more aid for Kyiv have stalled in Congress. 

Russia's number one spent more than half an hour giving a history of Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, in a dense monologue that spanned the ninth-century rule of Oleg the Wise through to a critique of Bolshevik revolutionary Lenin.

However, most of the interview focused on Ukraine, where the war is nearing the two-year mark. 

Putin pointed at Zelenskyy's refusal to conduct talks with the Kremlin. 

He argued it's up to Washington to stop supplying Ukraine with weapons and convince Kyiv - which he called a US “satellite” - to sit down for negotiations.

“We have never refused negotiations,” Putin said. “You should tell the current Ukrainian leadership to stop and come to a negotiating table.”

A majority of Ukrainians remain committed to the war and want to see Russian forces removed from their territory, according to polling by Gallop. 

It is unclear how an end to the war could be negotiated without ceding parts of southern and eastern Ukraine to Russia - something Ukrainians opposed.

Putin warned the West would never succeed in inflicting a “strategic defeat” on Russia in Ukraine and rejected allegations that Russia was harbouring plans to attack Poland or other NATO countries.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby tried to minimise the impact of Carlson’s interview ahead of its release. 

“Remember, you’re listening to Vladimir Putin," he said. "You shouldn’t take at face value anything he has to say."

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Freeing US journalists on the table

Putin has heavily limited his contact with international media since he launched the war in Ukraine in February 2022. 

Meanwhile, Russian authorities have cracked down on independent media, forcing some Russian outlets to close, blocking others and ordering several foreign reporters to leave the country. 

Two journalists working for US news organisations — The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich and Radio Free Europe’s Alsu Kurmasheva — are in jail.

Evan Gershkovich is escorted from the Lefortovsky court after the hearing in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.
Evan Gershkovich is escorted from the Lefortovsky court after the hearing in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.Alexander Zemlianichenko/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Asked by Carlson whether Russia would release Gershkovich, Putin said Moscow is open to talks but repeated that the reporter was charged with espionage, an accusation Gershkovich has denied.

“He was caught red-handed when he was secretly getting classified information,” Putin said of Gershkovich, adding that he doesn't exclude that the reporter could return home.

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“There is no taboo on settling this issue," Putin said. “We are 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 “US-allied country” for “liquidating a bandit" who killed Russian soldiers during the fighting in the Caucasus: “He put our soldiers taken prisoners on a road and then drove a car over their heads. There was a patriot who liquidated him in one of the European capitals.”

Putin didn't mention names, but he appeared to refer to Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany after being convicted of the 2019 brazen daylight killing of Zelimkhan “Tornike” Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian citizen of Chechen ethnicity.

German judges who convicted Krasikov said he had acted on the orders of Russian federal authorities, who provided him with a false identity, a fake passport and the resources to carry out the hit.

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