Vladimir Putin in a sweeping new interview with former Fox News host, Tucker Carlson published on Friday morning, February 9 said he believed “an agreement can be reached” to free imprisoned US journalist Evan Gershkovich, suggesting he would swap him for a Russian assassin serving a life sentence in Germany.

Russia’s president compared Gershkovich’s imprisonment in Moscow to “a person serving a sentence in an allied country of the US”, a likely reference to Vadim Krasikov, who killed a former Chechen rebel Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin’s Tiergarten park in 2019.

In the last one year, US officials have said Russia has raised his case in prisoner swap negotiations.

Putin appeared to hint that Krasikov, who German prosecutors have said likely carried out the hit for Russia’s FSB security service, was acting on Moscow’s orders, despite earlier denials.

“There was a patriot who eliminated [Khangoshvili] in one of the European capitals. Whether he did it of his own volition or not. That is a different question,” Putin said.

His comments came in an interview in the Kremlin with Tucker Carlson, the first interview Putin has given to western media since ordering the invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

They were the most concrete description yet of Russia’s conditions to release Gershkovich, a 32-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter who has been jailed for almost a year on espionage charges. The US government and the paper reject the charges and describe them as completely false.

“I do not rule out that the person you refer to, Mr Gershkovich, may return to his motherland,” Putin said. “We want the US special services to think about how they can contribute to achieving the goals our special services are pursuing.”

The Wall Street Journal responding  the claims on Friday morning, said; “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.”

“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.”

Gershkovich was detained by Russia’s FSB in March 2023 while he was on a reporting assignment in the city of Ekaterinburg. At the time of his arrest, he had press credentials from Russia’s foreign ministry.

Russian state media had promoted the interview ever since Carlson, who has become a star in Russia after making sympathetic comments about Putin, was first spotted at the Bolshoi ballet earlier this week.

The Kremlin said Carlson had secured the interview because his stance was “different from traditional Anglo-Saxon media” it claims are biased against Russia.