Putin says he’s open to negotiating with US over Ukraine war in lengthy Carlson interview

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was open to negotiating with the U.S. over the war in Ukraine during a two-hour interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, but the Russian leader also spent much of the time expounding on history and repeating talking points in an attempt to justify his actions in Ukraine.

Putin told Carlson in an interview from Moscow that Russia has “never refused negotiations” and would welcome any efforts from Washington to discuss a peace agreement in Ukraine.

“We hear all the time, ‘Is Russia ready?’ Yes,” Putin said in the interview that aired Thursday. “We have not refused. It was them who publicly refused.”

Putin has claimed before that he is open to negotiating an end to the war, including after Russian forces suffered massive losses in 2022 following Ukrainian counteroffensives.

But U.S. officials have expressed wariness at the claims because Russia still demands Ukraine not be included in the western security alliance NATO and Moscow wants to hold the roughly 18 percent of territory Russian forces occupy in eastern Ukraine.

Several reports suggested in recent weeks that Putin is quietly signaling to Washington that he is open to a ceasefire as the war shifts in his favor. Russian forces have entrenched themselves across the 600-mile front and repelled a Ukrainian counteroffensive last year, and the U.S. Congress is struggling to approve more aid to Ukraine.

The Kremlin in December said there was no basis for negotiations, but Putin signaled a major shift on Thursday in some of his most expansive public comments yet on negotiating an end to the war with the West.

“Wouldn’t it be better to negotiate with Russia? Make an agreement,” Putin said after explaining the U.S. faces high costs to intervene in the war. “Already understanding the situation that is developing today, realizing that Russia will fight for its interests to the end.”

“And realizing this is actually a return to common sense, start respecting our country and its interests and look for certain solutions,” he added. “It seems to me that this is much smarter and more rational.”

In the interview, Putin also repeated a claim that Russia was prepared to sign an agreement with Ukraine in the spring of 2022, shortly after the Russian offensive failed, but that then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson killed the deal because the Ukrainians were winning.

Johnson has denied that account to the media and the failed negotiations at the time also came after alleged Russian war crimes were revealed in the town of Bucha upon a Russian retreat, which caused an uproar internationally.

Putin spent most of the interview reciting history about Ukraine and Russia and repeating that he invaded Ukraine to denazify the country and protect ethnic Russian speakers, while also accusing NATO of expanding eastward toward Russia.

Without evidence, he also accused Kyiv and the West of seeking to encourage a conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern region of the country, which broke out in 2014 after Moscow illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula following the ouster of a Russian-backed president.

But for most of the interview, Putin engaged in a tirade about the history of Russia and Ukraine in an attempt to justify that Ukraine is historically part of Russia, a claim that is denied by Ukrainians who point out Kyiv was founded before Moscow.

Putin’s history lessons even forced a reaction from Carlson.

“I’ll tell you, I’m coming for that,” Putin said to a skeptical Carlson. “This briefing is coming to an end. It might be boring, but it explains many things.”

“It’s not boring,” Carlson answered. “Just not sure how it’s relevant.”

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