Russian propagandists claim Putin interview will ‘blow up’ US election

A Russian propagandist working for Kremlin-controlled state TV has claimed that Tucker Carlson’s interview with President Vladimir Putin is set to “blow up” the upcoming US election.

The Kremlin confirmed on Wednesday that the interview took place on Tuesday, and it is believed to be set for broadcast on Thursday.

Russian broadcasters have long argued that the former Fox News host be allowed a sit-down with Mr Putin, with the head of the Russian broadcaster RT, Margarita Simonyan, asking the Kremlin to set up a meeting after months of clips of Carlson’s former Fox News programme being used on Russian TV to push Kremlin talking points via the American broadcaster.

Vladimir Solovyov, a host on Russian state TV, even offered Carlson a job on his channel.

On Monday night, state media reported that Carlson’s van, loaded with equipment, departed his hotel at about the same time as Mr Putin’s motorcade moved towards the Kremlin, The Daily Beast noted.

The former editor of Ekho Moskvy radio station, Alexei Venediktov, wrote on X on Tuesday: “As far as I understand, Tucker Carlson got what he wanted.”

The timing of the interview appears to have been scheduled close to the upcoming Russian election to be held between 15 and 17 March.

Russian democracy is widely seen as merely theatrical, with those running against Mr Putin simply hoping to stay out of prison and avoid being killed, admitting that they have no chance of any electoral success.

The Daily Beast columnist and observer of Russian media Julia Davis wrote that “being able to show that a well-known American figure is willing to bend the knee to an international pariah is a great opportunity for Putin to re-assert his dominance and standing”.

A Russian official told The Moscow Times that Mr Putin “will win the election without Tucker’s help, but access to an American audience through Carlson during the heated struggle between Biden and Trump is again an opportunity to exert that proverbial influence on the US election, given Carlson’s huge audience”.

“Our propaganda will blast Carlson’s words criticizing the Democrats, which means he will confirm our hawks’ line up to the tiniest detail,” the official added.

“Tucker has been expected here for a long time. He is welcome here,” a source with insight into the Putin administration told the paper.

Russian state TV fawned over Carlson as he arrived in Moscow, showing his visit to the ballet, his lunch, his visit to the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy, and his subway ride, Davis noted.

Evgeny Popov, the host of the programme 60 Minutes on Russian state TV, said that Carlson “charged his smartphone via a USB port and connected to a fast and free WiFi internet” in Moscow. “American citizens can’t even dream about such wonders of civilization!”

State TV pushed the notion that Carlson is seen as a traitor in the US.

John Varoli, a former New York Times correspondent, said on Solovyov Live that Carlson could be taken out, claiming that he’s “Joe Biden’s enemy number one”.

“In Russia, where the killings or imprisonments of journalists and dissidents are quite routine, an absurd assertion that the Biden administration is trying to hunt down Tucker Carlson might sound believable,” Davis wrote.

On Monday’s The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, the host argued that the “main problem” in the US at the moment “is what to do with Tucker Carlson!”

He claimed that previous interviews US outlets have done with Mr Putin have been edited in attempts to mislead.

“In our journalism, this sort of thing is unacceptable by definition … it’s taboo!” he said.

The Russian Union of Journalists offered Carlson membership on Monday.

Sergey Mikheyev, a political scientist, appeared on Solovyov’s programme saying that he believes there’s “something wrong with his psyche because everyone is pressuring him. His eyebrows are raised, he constantly looks worried. He used to look better than this”.

“If Tucker dares to broadcast this interview in the United States, first and foremost, this will blow up their informational blockade from within,” he added, arguing that the interview will be more interesting than any interview with top Democrats or Republicans, whom he called “uninteresting and stupid”.

He added that he was surprised to learn how many Americans were willing to believe that former First Lady Michelle Obama was born as a man, saying that the interview with Mr Putin would have “interesting” results with such a gullible American audience.

“It will blow them up into pieces!” Solovyov said.

Mikheyev said regarding the US, “God willing, there will be a civil war!”

Carlson’s interview with Mr Putin comes after he spent years on Fox News and subsequently on X denigrating the Ukrainian cause and pushing Kremlin talking points regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Carlson has been heavily used in Russian state propaganda as a way to push Russia’s distorted view of the conflict, which was started under the baseless pretence that Ukraine was being led by neo-Nazis, a galling claim as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust.

When asked directly why Putin granted an interview to Carlson, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the American’s position contrasted with much of the Western media.

“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,” Peskov said.

“There are risks to conducting an interview like this, obviously,” Carlson said in a video posted on X on Tuesday afternoon. “So we thought about it carefully over many months. Here’s why we’re doing it. First, because it’s our job. We’re in journalism. Our duty is to inform people, two years into a war that’s reshaping the entire world. Most Americans are not informed. They have no real idea what’s happening in this region, here in Russia or 600 miles away in Ukraine, but they should know. They’re paying for much of it in ways they might not fully yet perceive.”

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