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    Putin Under Fire: Carlson Demands Release of WSJ Reporter in Tense Interview

    Tucker Carlson is a prominent conservative media personality and founder of Tucker Carlson Today. He confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 8, 2024. The interview was rare and riveting. It was about the fate of Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist detained by Russia on espionage charges.

    Putin has ruled Russia since 2012 and previously from 2000 to 2008. He is widely regarded as an authoritarian leader. He has suppressed dissent, violated human rights, and expanded Russia’s influence and military presence in the region and beyond. He ordered the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, sparking a war that has killed thousands of people and displaced millions more. He has also been accused of interfering in the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections. Additionally, he has poisoned and imprisoned his political opponents. He has also cracked down on independent media and civil society.

    Gershkovich is a reporter at The Wall Street Journal. He covers Russia, Ukraine, and former Soviet Union nations. In March 2023, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) detained him. This is the first time that a journalist working for an American outlet has been arrested on spying charges since the Cold War. The White House and media advocacy groups have condemned the arrest. Experts have speculated that the motivation behind the order for Gershkovich’s arrest was an anticipated prisoner exchange. The exchange would be for one or more high-profile Russians imprisoned in other countries. Gershkovich remained in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine. Despite his 2023 arrest, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

    The interview lasted for more than two hours. It aired on Carlson’s website and Fox Nation, a streaming service affiliated with Fox News. Carlson asked Putin about various topics, including the war in Ukraine, the relations with the U.S. and other countries, the allegations of election meddling and assassinations, the state of democracy and human rights in Russia, and his life’s personal and professional aspects. Carlson also brought up the case of Gershkovich. He demanded that Putin release him immediately amid concerns about his safety and well-being.

    Carlson is known for his outspoken and often controversial views. He did not hold back his criticism of Putin and his regime. Carlson called him a “tyrant” and a “murderer” who has “no respect for human dignity.” He also challenged Putin on his claims of legitimacy and popularity. Carlson cited the widespread protests and opposition movements in Russia in recent years.

    Putin rarely grants interviews to foreign media, especially those critical of him. However, he responded with defiance, denial, and diversion. He defended his actions in Ukraine, saying he was protecting the interests and rights of the Russian-speaking population there. He denied any involvement in the interference or sabotage of the U.S. elections, the poisoning or imprisonment of his rivals, or the repression of the media and civil society. He also dismissed the accusations of being an authoritarian or a dictator. Putin said that the people elected him and that he respected the Constitution and the law.

    When Carlson pressed him on the issue of Gershkovich, Putin hinted at a potential prisoner exchange. He said he would consider “any proposals” from the U.S. government. He also accused Gershkovich of receiving classified information from a Russian defense enterprise. Putin said Gershkovich was not a “simple journalist” but a “spy” who had violated the law.

    The interview was conducted in English with the help of an interpreter. It was tense and heated, with both sides interrupting and challenging each other. Carlson said he had traveled to Moscow to seek the truth and hold Putin accountable. He said he was unsatisfied with Putin’s answers and would continue fighting for Gershkovich’s freedom.

    Putin said he agreed to the interview to show his openness and willingness to dialogue. He said he hoped the relations between Russia and the U.S. would improve. He also hoped that the two countries would cooperate on common issues.

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