Vladimir Putin appealed to the US to stop the fighting in Ukraine and push for peace, telling Tucker Carlson: “We have to look for a way out of this situation”.
Speaking to Tucker Carlson, his first interview with a Western media figure since invading Ukraine in February 2022, the Russian president appeared to signal for the first time that Washington and Moscow were involved in backchannel peace talks on the war.
Putin said he could not “remember” when he last spoke to Joe Biden, the US president, but suggested it was before Russia’s war in Ukraine. However, he said “certain contacts are being maintained” through “various agencies”.
Carlson asked Putin about reports that Ukraine was “prevented from negotiating a peace settlement” by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson “acting on behalf of the Biden administration”.
The claim first surfaced after David Arahamiya, Ukraine’s chief negotiator in the peace talks, cited Mr Johnson’s surprise trip to Kyiv in 2022 among the reasons the talks stalled.
Mr Arahamiya told a journalist that while talks between Kyiv and Moscow were underway in Istanbul, Mr Johnson told leaders in Kyiv that Ukraine “shouldn’t sign anything with them at all – and let’s just fight”.
Mr Johnson has previously vehemently denied the claims as “total nonsense” and “Russian propaganda”.
Mr Johnson said he merely “expressed concerns” about the nature of the potential agreement during a conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
He added he had assured Mr Zelensky of the UK’s unwavering support for Ukraine, stating that Britain would back Kyiv “a thousand per cent”.
Raising the issue, Carlson asked Putin whether Ukraine was merely a “satellite” for the West.
Putin replied: “If the Zelensky administration in Ukraine refused to negotiate, I assume they did it under instruction from Washington”.
The Russian leader went on to claim a peace deal was settled in Istanbul with Ukraine’s chief negotiator but scuppered by Mr Johnson, prolonging the war by another “18 months”.
He said: “Prime Minister Johnson came to talk us out of it and we missed that chance. Well, you missed it.”
Discussing a potential path to peace, Putin said: “If Washington believes it to be the wrong decision, let it abandon it. Let it find the delicate excuse so that no one is insulted. Let it come up with a way out. It was not us who made this decision. It was them. So let them go back on it.”
He added: “And now we have to look for a way out of this situation to correct their mistakes. They did it, so let them correct it themselves. We support this.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Putin hinted that he could be open to releasing Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter who has been held in a Russian prison for almost a year.
Putin signalled backchannel conversations were ongoing with Washington over Mr Gershkovich’s release, and said: “Special services are in contact with one another.”
He added: “They are talking about the matter in question. I believe an agreement can be reached.”
Putin spent the first half an hour of the interview giving a centuries-long historical account of Russian territory which he claimed justified his claims on Ukrainian territory.
More than once, Carlson pressed the Russian leader on how his response was “relevant” to the invasion.
Putin replied: “Are we going to have a serious talk or a show?”
He argued that Romania and Hungary “had some of their lands taken away… and they still remain part of Ukraine”.
The Right-wing American commentator asked: “Do you believe Hungary has a right to take its land back from Ukraine, and that other nations have a right to go back to their 1654 borders?”
Putin replied: “I’m not sure whether they should go back to their 1654 borders. But… one can say that they could claim back those lands of theirs while having no right to do that. It is at least understandable.”
Putin also said it was “out of the question” for Russia to invade Poland or Latvia, telling Carlson “we simply don’t have any interest” in expanding the war in Ukraine.
“Can you imagine a scenario where you send Russian troops to Poland?” Carlson asked in the interview.
“Only in one case, if Poland attacks Russia,” Putin responded, adding: “We have no interest in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else. Why would we do that? We simply don’t have any interest… It is absolutely out of the question.”
But he said defeating Russia in Ukraine is “impossible” and Nato must accept Moscow’s territorial gains there.
“There has been the uproar and screaming about inflicting a strategic defeat to Russia on the battlefield,” Mr Putin said. “In my opinion, it is impossible by definition. It is never going to happen.”