Tucker Carlson in an interview published online Thursday pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has now spent more than 250 days behind bars in Russia.
“Evan Gershkovich, who’s the Wall Street Journal reporter. He’s 32. And he’s been in prison for almost a year. This is a huge story in the United States. And I just want to ask you directly, without getting into the details of it or your version of what happened, if, as a sign of your decency, you would be willing to release him to us, and we’ll bring him back to the United States,” Carlson asked Putin during the interview.
Putin was noncommittal in his response.
“We have done so many gestures of goodwill out of decency that I think we have run out of them,” Putin said. “We have never seen anyone reciprocate to us in a similar manner. There is no taboo to settle this issue. We are willing to solve it, but there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels. I believe an agreement can be reached.”
Gershkovich is a journalist who the U.S. says is being wrongfully detained amid high tensions with Russia during the war in Ukraine.
Putin suggested, without giving any evidence, that Gershkovich was working as a spy in Russia, telling Carlson, “You know, you can give a different interpretations to what constitutes a spy.”
“But there are certain things provided by law,” the Russian president continued. “If a person gets secret information and does that in [a] conspiratorial manner, then this is qualified as espionage.”
Carlson pushed back, at one point saying, “He’s a 32-year-old newspaper reporter.”
“I do not rule out that the person you refer to, Mr. Gershkovich, may return to his motherland,” Putin said. “We want the U.S. Special Services to think about how they can contribute to achieving the goals our special services are pursuing. We are ready to talk.”
Carlson concluded by saying, “I hope you let him out. Mr. President, thank you.”
The sit-down with Carlson is Putin’s first with a member of the U.S. media since his invasion of Ukraine.
Carlson has been sharply critical of U.S. support for Ukraine as it fights against Russia, a conflict he let Putin speak about at length for the majority of the two-hour conversation.
“Evan is a journalist, and journalism is not a crime. Any portrayal to the contrary is total fiction. Evan was unjustly arrested and has been wrongfully detained by Russia for nearly a year for doing his job, and we continue to demand his immediate release,” The Wall Street Journal said in a statement on Evan Gershkovich to The Hill.
It continued, “We’re encouraged to see Russia’s desire for a deal that brings Evan home, and we hope this will lead to his rapid release and return to his family and our newsroom.”
Updated at 8:02 p.m.