February 23, 2024

Russian leader says deal to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich possible after ‘reciprocal steps’.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that defeating Russia in Ukraine is “impossible” while insisting he does not seek to expand the war to neighbouring countries such as Poland and Latvia.

In a high-profile interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Putin denied that he had territorial ambitions across Europe and said he would only send troops into neighbouring countries if attacked first.

“It is absolutely out of the question. You just don’t have to be any kind of analyst, it goes against common sense to get involved in some kind of a global war, and a global war will bring all of humanity to the brink of devastation,” Putin said in the interview posted online on Thursday. “It’s obvious.”

During a two-hour interview that saw Putin talk at length about the history of Eastern Europe and Russia, the Russian leader said that his government was in contact with the United States and that a peaceful resolution to the war would only be possible if Washington stops supplying weapons to Ukraine.

“I will tell you what we are saying on this matter and what we are conveying to the US leadership,” Putin said. “If you really want to stop fighting, you need to stop supplying weapons. It will be over within a few weeks, that’s it, and then we can agree on some terms. Before you do that, stop.”

Asked by Carlson whether he would be willing to release imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich as a “sign of your decency”, the Russian leader said a deal is possible and there is “no taboo” on resolving the issue.

“We have done so many gestures of goodwill out of decency that I think we have run out of them. No, we have never seen anyone reciprocate to us in a similar manner. However, in theory, we can say that we do not rule out that we can do that if our partners take reciprocal steps,” Putin said.

Gershkovich has been detained in Russia since March 2023 on spying charges that Washington has described as “baseless”.

The Kremlin said Putin agreed to sit down with Carlson because he presented a less one-sided view of the war in Ukraine.

Carlson has repeatedly questioned the rationale for US support for Kyiv, and in a video posted on social media this week, he criticised US media outlets for their “fawning” coverage of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Before the interview, Carlson attracted criticism for travelling to Moscow to interview the Russian leader, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton labelling the former TV host a “useful idiot”.

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