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White House slams Putin 'brutality' ahead of Carlson interview

US talk show Tucker Carlson traveled to Moscow to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA)
US talk show Tucker Carlson traveled to Moscow to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA)

The White House said Wednesday that Vladimir Putin should not be given another mouthpiece to justify his war in Ukraine, after right-wing US talk show host Tucker Carlson interviewed the Russian president.

The former Fox News host, a key ally of 2024 election candidate Donald Trump and a vocal opponent to US military aid for Kyiv, traveled to Moscow for Putin's first interview with a Western journalist since Russia's February 2022 invasion.

"It should be very obvious to everybody what Mr Putin has done in Ukraine, and the completely bogus and ridiculous reasons for which he tried to justify it," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One.

"I don't think we need another interview with Vladimir Putin to understand his brutality."

Carlson has not said when the interview will be broadcast but mentioned it will be free to watch. After being sacked by Fox News last year, he started a show on the Elon Musk-owned social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

Carlson's visit to Moscow has been covered heavily by Russian state media, which has long highlighted the US celebrity's anti-Ukraine talking points.

Carlson's access to Putin is a huge contrast with restraints on other foreign journalists in Russia, where two US citizens -- Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and Radio Free Europe's Alsu Kurmasheva -- are currently imprisoned.

The open doors for Carlson also come against the backdrop of the Kremlin's two-decades-long dismantling of the free press, with prominent Russian journalists murdered and many more forced to live abroad under Putin.

The Kremlin however contradicted Carlson's own claim that he was the only Western journalist who had "bothered" to request access to Putin since the invasion.

"We receive many requests for interviews with the president," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked whether Carlson was the only person who asked for a sit-down with Putin.

He said Carlson's more pro-Russian position contrasts with what he called "the traditional Anglo-Saxon media."

CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour and the BBC's Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg were among those who refuted Carlson's claim to be alone in asking for a Putin interview.

Carlson's surprise scoop comes as US aid to Ukraine has dried up due to Republican opposition in Washington, leaving Ukrainian forces scrambling for ammunition.

As fresh Russian strikes killed five more people in Kyiv and other regions, the White House's Kirby said Ukrainian battlefield commanders were being forced to make "really tough decisions" on how to conserve ammunition.

"The Russians know this. And that's why they keep flying drones and missiles to to force the Ukrainians to use air defense capabilities that they know are not being replaced right now," Kirby said.

Putin has long been admired by the hard-right in the United States, including by Trump, who has a history of praising the Kremlin leader, for example calling him a "genius" and more credible than US intelligence.

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