Kremlin corrects Tucker Carlson’s claim that no Western journalists tried to interview Putin

The Kremlin has slapped down a claim by far-right influencer Tucker Carlson that no Western journalists have tried to interview Russian president Vladimir Putin about his invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Carlson accused the Western media of engaging in “fawning pep sessions” with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, whom he has previously called a “dictator” and likened to a rat, while confidently asserting that “not a single Western journalist has bothered to interview the president of the other country involved in this conflict: Vladimir Putin.”

The former Fox News commentator, who has heaped effusive praise on Mr Putin for years, made the false claim in a video posted on Tuesday to promote his interview with the Russian leader, which has reportedly already been filmed but not yet posted online.

“Mr Carlson is not correct. In fact, there’s no way he could know this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

Mr Peskov went on to say that the Kremlin receives “numerous requests” for interviews from Western media, which are all denied because the Kremlin does not deem the media outlets impartial.

“His position is different from the others… it is pro-American, but at least it contrasts with the position of the traditional Anglo-Saxon media,” Mr Peskov added.

Mr Carlson was also fact-checked by dozens of journalists who report on and live in Russia.

“Does Tucker really think we journalists haven’t been trying to interview President Putin every day since his full scale invasion of Ukraine? It’s absurd — we’ll continue to ask for an interview, just as we have for years now,” said CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

The BBC’s Russia editor, Steve Rosenberg, wrote on X: “Interesting to hear @TuckerCarlson claim that ‘no western journalist has bothered to interview’ Putin since the invasion of Ukraine. We’ve lodged several requests with the Kremlin in the last 18 months. Always a ‘no’ for us.”

Yevgenia Albats, a Russian journalist and author of a book about the KGB, described Mr Carlson’s claim as “unbelievable.”

“I am like hundreds of Russian journalists who have had to go into exile to keep reporting about the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine. The alternative was to go to jail. And now this SoB is teaching us about good journalism, shooting  from the $1,000 Ritz suite in Moscow,” she wrote on X.

Mr Carlson has heaped praise on Mr Putin and Russia for many years, including after Moscow launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

“We should probably take the side of Russia if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine,” Mr Carlson said in 2019.

“It may be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? These are fair questions, and the answer to all of them is: ‘No.’ Vladimir Putin didn’t do any of that,” he said in 2022.

Press freedom groups rank Russia as one of the worst places in the world to be a journalist.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Reporters Without Borders said that “almost all independent media have been banned, blocked and/or declared ‘foreign agents’ or ‘undesirable organisations’. All others are subject to military censorship”.

At least 1,000 independent Russian journalists have reportedly fled the country due to censorship laws that prosecute critical of the war in Ukraine

Critics of Mr Putin have pointed to the murder and imprisonment of Russian journalists who have criticised his government, most famously Anna Politkovskaya, who had highlighted atrocities by Russian troops during the Second Chechen War and who was shot dead outside her Moscow apartment on 7 October – Putin’s birthday – 2006.

Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has been detained in Russia since October last year on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent. The WSJ says on its website: “Evan, his family, the Journal and the US government vehemently deny these allegations. We continue to demand Evan’s immediate release.”

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