Ahead of the March presidential elections in Russia, President Vladimir Putin spoke in Moscow with Tucker Carlson, a conservative American journalist and former Fox News host who now runs a personal news site.
Carlson announced the interview on February 6 in a controversial video post on X, saying it took bravery to conduct an interview with Putin while all other Western journalists ignored the Russian leader. The American people deserve to know the truth from Russia, Carlson said, and promised his interview with Putin would deliver that truth.
Carlson’s video sparked criticism from Western colleagues and independent Russian journalists who said his accusations of biased reporting on Russia were baseless. Many said Carlson ignored the Putin regime’s historic record of censorship, journalist murders, and imprisonment.
Carlson published the pre-recorded, two-hour-long interview with Vladimir Putin on February 8, introducing it as the Russian leader’s “sincere point of view.”
Throughout the more than 20 years he has ruled Russia, Putin has repeatedly violated international treaties and has broken his promises.
Carlson’s interview with the Russian leader was a combination of short direct questions and long unrelated answers.
Carlson started by asking Putin why he invaded Ukraine. Putin requested “some 30 seconds” to explain why there is no such country as Ukraine, only Russia. What followed was a 40+ minutes-long monologue of Putin’s alternative history lesson, in which Hitler started World War II by invading Poland “because Poland provoked him.” The Russian Empire, with a notorious record of brutal colonial wars that erased entire peoples, was in Putin’s version of history “always very protective of cultures and religions of peoples who came to join Russia.” Also, per Putin, Ukraine is the aggressor and Russia is only defending itself.
Here is some of what Putin told Carlson:
- Putin: Ukrainians still consider themselves Russians. What is happening is an element of a civil war.
This is false.
Facing nearly two years of Russian aggression that killed hundreds of thousands of people, destroyed entire towns and cities, and displaced millions, Ukrainians increasingly cherish their unique national identity.
Opinion polls conducted in Ukraine over the years show that the vast majority of Ukrainians consider Russians a different ethnic group. Russia’s initial intervention in 2014, followed by a full-fledged invasion in February 2022, sharpened the Ukrainians’ national identity as separate people and increased negative sentiments toward the invading Russian nation.
Prior to the invasion, Putin had written an op-ed declaring Ukraine an integral part of Russia and denying its history and right to sovereignty. He has since reaffirmed that view in his public addresses and policy.
- Putin: The 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine was accomplished by the armed opposition with the help of CIA.
This is false.
There was no “2014 coup” in Ukraine. The military played virtually no role in the events of 2014 in Kyiv. One military unit of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs was ordered into Kyiv to help suppress the Maidan protesters, not to help them. Members of that unit were trapped in their barracks by protesters and never made it to the capital.
Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych was never overthrown as is customary in a coup but abandoned his post and fled to Russia amid mass protests against his refusal to sign an association agreement with the European Union.
Additionally, while Putin’s accusations against the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency are a repetition of the Kremlin’s years-old propaganda narrative, neither Russia nor any other nation ever presented any credible evidence that protesters were “agents” of the United States or any other country.
- Putin: NATO has options to recognize Russia’s control over the new regions.
This is false.
Per the United Nations General Assembly, Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of Ukrainian regions has no validity under international law.
Russia currently occupies parts of four Ukrainian regions and the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow falsely claims “joined” Russia via plebiscite.
143 world nations jointly condemned Russia’s "so-called referendums in regions within the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine and the attempted illegal annexation.”
- Putin: Ukraine started the war; Russia’s goal is to stop it.
This is false.
Putin can stop the war at any time. Instead, he keeps sending troops into Ukraine and makes laws to legitimize the occupation of Ukrainian territory and the abduction of thousands of Ukrainian children.
Russia started the war on Ukraine in 2014 when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and then sent clandestine military units to secretly seize government buildings in Donbas, effectively launching a power grab of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Ukraine responded to Russian active measures by launching what Kyiv called an “anti-terrorist operation.” Subsequently, Russia sent regular troops to Donbas and annexed it.
Putin reportedly planned to host a victory parade at Kyiv’s iconic Maidan Square a week after launching the February 2022 full-scale invasion.
Until the day of the invasion, Putin lied to his foreign counterparts about his war plans, while his agencies portrayed repeated warnings from the United States about a possible invasion as “Russophobic hysteria.”
In addition, Russia ignores the U.N. demand to “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
Moscow also ignores the U.N. International Court of Justice's preliminary ruling that ordered Russia to immediately stop its military operations in Ukraine and its support for armed forces in eastern Ukraine to further Russia’s war.
- Putin: Russia had to take Crimea under its protection in 2014.
This is false.
Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, sending in troops in unmarked uniforms, staging a fake referendum, and targeting Crimean Tatars as extremists. The main reason for the persecution? Disagreement with Russia's annexation.
Russian authorities outlawed the representative body of the Crimean Tatars, the Mejlis, and shut down the Crimean Tatar TV channel.
- Putin: We voluntarily withdrew our troops from Kyiv.
This is misleading.
There is evidence Russia planned a “blitzkrieg” attack to capture Kyiv, which was one axis of Russia’s invasion.
The United States, which accurately predicted Russia would invade Ukraine, said it believed that Russia intended to take Kyiv and “decapitate” the government at the onset of the war.
Elite airborne forces led Russia’s assault on Kyiv. Many of the most infamous alleged Russian war crimes occurred during battles in towns outside of Kyiv — Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel. Russia’s failure to take Hostomel (or Antonov Airport) was also crucial to the capital’s survival.
Most infamously, a roughly 40-mile-long Russian convoy stalled outside of Kyiv, due to logistical failures, resistance from Ukrainian forces and poor morale among Russian troops.
On March 14, U.S. officials said Russian forces had stalled outside of Kyiv, with a “possible effort” to encircle the city never coming to pass. The culmination of these failures prompted Russia to scale back its ambitions.
- Putin: We have made so many gestures of goodwill, that we’ve exhausted all limits. Nobody responded to our goodwill gestures with similar gestures. (Answering a question about Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich imprisoned in Russia)
This is false.
Arresting and incriminating journalists for doing their job is no goodwill gesture.
Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, was arrested while on a reporting assignment in Russia’s eastern city of Yekaterinburg.
The FSB, a Russian domestic intelligence agency, accused him of collecting secret information about the Russian military but never presented evidence to back that accusation. The Journal and Gershkovich denied the allegations.
Nevertheless, the Russian court handed out a guilty verdict and rejected appeals.
On November 28, the court in Moscow extended Gershkovich’s detention until the end of January.
The United States maintains Gershkovich is wrongfully detained and refers to him as a hostage, calling for Gershkovich’s immediate release.
“Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
VOA previously debunked the Russian claims that Gershkovich “was never involved in any journalistic activities in Russia.”
- Putin: His father actually fought against the fascists, the Nazis during World War II, I spoke with him about that. I told Zelenskyy, Volodya what are you doing?! Why are you supporting neo-Nazis in Ukraine today, when your father fought against fascists? He is a combat veteran.” I won’t tell what his answer was, I believe it’s impolite to share it.
That is false
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s father - Oleksandr Zelenskyy, was born in 1947, two years after the end of World War II.