Newsletters / Mikhail Khodorkovsky: Putin needs Tucker Carlson because ordinary Russians love the West

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Among world leaders, Vladimir Putin is possibly the easiest to analyse. The one thing you need to keep in mind is: every single thing that Putin does, he does it for staying in power.

Cracking down on the opposition, eliminating dissent, stifling the free press and keepingbusinesses in check – all of this is pursuit of the sole goal: to stay in power. Even the invasion of Ukraine, which many tend to see from an imperialist or colonial angle, is rooted in domestic, not foreign policy, objectives.

In this war, Putin is exploiting Russians’ national trauma, resentment and nostalgia for a great Russia to boost his popularity and cement the legitimacy of his rule.

Putin’s propaganda machine is portraying Ukraine as a proxy of the West, Russia’s sworn, formidable enemy. It is the West and Nato that Putin is fighting in Ukraine, and this is how most Russians have been shaped to view this war.

But if you believe that the West is Russia’s existential enemy, then where does the Tucker Carlson phenomenon fit in? How come Carlson has become a darling of Russian state media and what does it do to help Putin tighten his grip on power?

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Putin’s Interview With Tucker Carlson Was Filled With Lies, Here Are Some Egregious Examples I posted on X, formerly known as twitter.

❌ He claimed Russia had become Europe’s largest economy

✔️ Russia ranks 32nd in Europe for GDP (PPP) per capita.

❌ Putin once again trotted out the old lie about US promises NATO would not expand east

✔️ There was never such an agreement – even Gorbachev said so – and in any case, countries join NATO of their own free will. If Putin didn’t want NATO to grow, he shouldn’t declare war on his neighbours.

❌ Putin denied ever having said the US was preparing to attack Russia

✔️ In fact, he did say that, three days before invading Ukraine, which he said would be the “advanced foothold” for the so-called NATO assault

❌ He said the Maidan protests turned violent, even though Yanukovych refused to use any force against them

✔️ Yanukovych’s Berkut riot police brutally dispersed protesters, and its snipers shot dead 76 people in 3 days in February 2014

❌ He said Kyiv started the conflict in Donbas by using its air force against civilians

✔️ The conflict began on 12 April 2014 when FSB officer Igor Girkin led ‘separatists’ to seize the town of Sloviansk. Ukraine first used its aviation in response, on 26 May, in the battle for Donetsk Airport.

❌ During his rambling exercise in alternative history at the beginning of the interview, Putin said Ukraine was an artificial entity created at the initiative of Joseph Stalin

✔️ Ukraine was added to the Soviet Union in 1922, under Lenin. But the Ukrainian People’s Republic was declared in 1917 – before the Bolshevik takeover – and recognised by Russia’s provisional government.*.html?fbclid=IwAR3Qh6R4FvkYyMtVv0lshbIKdyd12SHlrASfX17cMeLXiTf6oYPtXbCJb5g

❌ He said Poland had ‘forced’ Hitler to declare war in 1939 by being ‘uncooperative’ with his plans

✔️ Hitler’s plans included the extermination of Poland’s Slavs and Jews, and its repopulation with Germans. The so-called Polish provocation used as a pretext for the invasion was a German false flag

❌ Speaking of Zelenskyy, Putin said he had once asked the Ukrainian president why he, as the son of a WW2 veteran, would ‘collaborate with neo-Nazis’

✔️ Zelenskyy’s father was born in 1947, after the WW2 ended

❌ Putin said NATO has ‘options’ to recognize Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine

✔️ It does not. The UN has declared the annexations illegal under international law, and even if it wanted to, NATO has no more right to contest that ruling than Russia does

❌ Putin claimed that Ukrainians ‘still consider themselves Russians’

✔️ Putin fundamentally misunderstood Ukrainian national identity and falsely believed Ukrainians saw themselves as Russians, a key mistake that led to the disastrous invasion. A 2022 poll revealed 93% favour independence, just 3% support merging with Russia.

❌ Putin said Zelenskyy had banned peace talks with Russia

✔️ Zelenskyy banned negotiations with Putin specifically, and said Ukraine was ‘ready for dialog with Russia, but with a different president’

❌ He said WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested for gathering secret information about the Russian military on behalf of US intelligence services

✔️ Before his arrest, Gershkovich had been working as a journalist in Russia since 2017. He is being held unlawfully in order to strong-arm the US into agreeing to some kind of concessions

❌ I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you. And all of this during quite a soft interview. ✔️ Imagine if Carlson had asked him tougher questions – like, ‘why don’t you let real candidates take part in elections?’ Or, ‘why don’t you allow independent media in Russia?’ If he had, at least the interview would have been shorter.

Follow me for insights into Russia’s future and its politics. As someone who’s spent a decade behind bars for challenging Putin, I know a thing or two about him and his regime.
on X, formerly known as Twitter: @khodorkovsky_en

In the media:

»Der Westen sollte Putins Wahl nicht anerkennen«

Tucker Carlson exposed Putin’s true war motive: For Russia to own Ukraine