In a newly released two-hour interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Russian President Vladimir Putin found himself addressing not just geopolitical matters but also battling a restless leg, sparking renewed rumours about his health.
During the Thursday interview, Putin was observed using his hand to control his leg, which seemed to be in constant motion. The 71-year-old president also experienced moments of coughing and throat clearing while making bold assertions, including claims that Russia possesses superior “supersonic missiles” compared to other nations. Additionally, he controversially labelled Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich as a “spy”.
Rumours about Putin’s health had already surfaced before the interview, with critics pointing to his apparent discomfort and grimaces during a meeting with Belarusian President Lukashenko on January 28, suggesting he appeared confused.
Despite persistent rumours and speculations, the Kremlin has consistently denied reports suggesting serious health issues, such as a fall resulting in cardiac arrest or the presence of cancer. They also reject claims that Putin employs body doubles.
During the interview, the Russian President issued a stark warning, threatening global conflict if the United States deploys troops to Ukraine. This marks Putin’s first engagement with a Western media figure since Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Putin urged the United States to cease its involvement in the conflict and work towards a peaceful resolution.
“We have to look for a way out of this situation,” he said, hinting at potential back-channel peace talks between Washington and Moscow.
While confirming the existence of certain contacts, Putin refused to provide further details. However, he stressed the gravity of sending regular troops, adding: “If somebody has the desire to send regular troops, that would certainly bring humanity to the brink of a very serious global conflict.”
Accusing Boris Johnson of sabotaging a peace deal with Ukraine, Putin responded to Carlson’s question about the former British prime minister’s alleged interference in negotiations. Putin claimed that Johnson’s actions during a surprise trip to Kyiv in 2022 disrupted the peace talks, according to Ukraine‘s chief negotiator, David Arahamiya.
Putin accused Johnson of talking Ukrainian leaders out of signing a potential peace agreement, thereby prolonging the conflict by 18 months. Johnson vehemently denied these accusations, labelling them as “total nonsense” and “Russian propaganda”.
Putin responded by suggesting that if the Zelensky administration refused to negotiate, it was likely under Washington’s instruction.
Putin hinted at a possible resolution in the case of Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter held in a Russian prison for almost a year. He suggested ongoing back-channel discussions with Washington, expressing optimism that an agreement could be reached.
During the extensive interview, Putin also provided a historical account of Russian territory, justifying his claims on Ukrainian territory. He asserted that Russia has no interest in expanding the war to Poland or Latvia, emphasising that invading these countries is “absolutely out of the question”.
Putin concluded by saying that defeating Russia in Ukraine is “impossible,” and NATO must accept Moscow’s territorial gains in the region. He dismissed the idea of a strategic defeat, adding: “It is never going to happen.”