In a more than two-hour-long, pre-recorded interview with Vladimir Putin released on Thursday, former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson questioned the Russian president on the ongoing war in Ukraine and jailed American journalist Evan Gershkovich.
Since announcing the interview this week, Carlson has faced criticism from journalists who say he disregarded Russia's poor press freedom record and might help promote Russian propaganda.
At the beginning of the interview, Carlson appeared sympathetic to the revisionist history Putin provided to justify Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, calling it the Russian leader's "sincere point of view."
But Carlson did push back on Putin's claims that Gershkovich — a reporter at The Wall Street Journal — is a spy and asked if Russia would release the journalist to him to return to the United States.
"There is no taboo to settle this issue," Putin said in the interview. "We are willing to solve it, but there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels. I believe an agreement can be reached."
In Russia, intelligence agencies are often unofficially referred to as special services.
Reporter still denies charges
Putin's remarks are his most extensive public comments on Gershkovich since The Wall Street Journal reporter was jailed in March 2023 on spying charges that are widely viewed as groundless and politically motivated.
Gershkovich, his employer and the U.S. government vehemently deny the charges against the reporter. The U.S. State Department also has declared Gershkovich wrongfully detained.
Putin appeared to imply that Moscow would be willing to exchange Gershkovich for a Russian assassin jailed in Germany.
The hitman in question is Vadim Krasikov. A German court in 2021 found Krasikov guilty of fatally shooting a former Chechen rebel leader in Berlin in 2019. The court said Russian authorities ordered the killing and sentenced Krasikov to life in prison.
"That person, due to patriotic sentiments, eliminated a bandit in one of the European capitals," Putin said.
The Journal previously reported that Moscow wants Krasikov released in a prisoner swap, possibly for Gershkovich.
No evidence of espionage
Despite jailing Gershkovich for nearly one year on spying charges, Moscow has so far failed to publicly provide any evidence to support the espionage claims. In the interview, Putin doubled down on the spying allegations but did not provide any evidence.
Carlson pushed back on the espionage claims, at one point saying, "The guy's obviously not a spy."
The former Fox News anchor also asked Putin if he would release Gershkovich "as a sign of your decency." Putin responded by saying Russia has run out of "gestures of goodwill."
Absent from the interview was a mention of the second American journalist currently jailed in Russia: Alsu Kurmasheva, a Prague-based editor at the Tatar-Bashkir Service of VOA's sister outlet, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
A dual U.S.-Russian national, Kurmasheva traveled to Russia in May 2023 for a family emergency. When she tried to leave the country in June, her passports were confiscated.
She was waiting for her passports to be returned when she was detained in October on charges of failing to register as a "foreign agent." Authorities later added charges of spreading false information about the Russian military.
Kurmasheva and her employer reject the charges against her.