Fact-check of latest lies by Putin-Carlson

“Independent” propagandist and “peaceful” dictator: fact-check of latest lies by Putin-Carlson

9 February 2024
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The Kremlin’s propaganda machine continues in various ways to spread its narratives to justify the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and war crimes. The disinformation campaign is not only spreading in Ukraine and Russia but also in Western countries.

To lend even more legitimacy to their words, they employ Western pseudo-experts and media personalities sympathetic to Russia. For instance, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson announced an “unbiased” and “truthful” interview with Putin. The blogger did not lie in just one aspect — the interview aired on the evening of February 8 according to American time. However, it was biased and untrue.

“Our duty is to (dis)inform people”

Tucker Carlson is a political commentator and former host of the American television channel Fox News. He has been noted for spreading disinformation on multiple occasions. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he repeatedly denied the necessity for quarantine measures and talked about “suppression of immunity” after vaccination. Additionally, Carlson promoted conspiracy theories: allegedly, the U.S. secretly worked on SARS-CoV-2 in Ukraine and China. In his own show segments, he justified Russia’s aggression, spread fakes about “biolabs in Ukraine,” and emphasized that supporting Ukraine harms the West. Predictably, these statements made him popular in Russia. Translated episodes garner hundreds of thousands of views, and Russian media often quote his statements. On April 24, 2023, Carlson was fired from Fox News, so he launched his own video blog.

Earlier, VoxCheck debunked the fakes voiced by Tucker Carlson in his first video blog on Twitter. He accused Ukraine of blowing up the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant. The fact-checking of his statements can be found here.

The day before the publication of the interview, Carlson explained why he decided to communicate with Putin. “Our duty is to inform people,” he says, hinting that no one in the Western audience knows anything about the Russian-Ukrainian war. At the same time, while talking about the crisis and the thousands of casualties as a result of the war, the blogger does not mention who is responsible for igniting the war.

And, of course, Carlson talks about the “Western propaganda” onslaught about Ukraine, while no American journalists interviewed the President of Russia. In this case, he employs the classic tactics of fake-makers and conspiracy theorists — false balance, where both sides are given a voice, even though only one position is backed by facts. In such a way platform is given to both victim and criminal, medical expert and anti-vaxxer, scientist and conspiracy theorist simultaneously. However, Carlson goes even further: he does not listen to the Ukrainian position but instead provides Russia with yet another channel for propagating its propaganda.

The interview with Putin lasted over 2 hours. And although Putin responded to every remark with mini-lectures, the blogger had the opportunity to ask critical questions. However, the only hint of criticism — a question not about Ukraine but about American journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested in Russia. And even here Carlson barely begs the president to “pardon” the American and especially does not argue with his arguments.

Tucker Carlson about Evan Gershkovich,

“So typically, I mean this stuff has happened for obviously centuries. One country catches another spy within its borders. It trades it for one of its own intel guys in another country. I think what makes and it’s not my business, but what makes this different is the guy’s obviously not a spy. He’s a kid, and maybe he was breaking your law in some way, but he’s not a super spy and everybody knows that. And he’s being held hostage in exchange, which is true with respect. It’s true. And everyone knows it’s true. So maybe he’s in a different category. Maybe it’s not fair to ask for, you know, somebody else in exchange for letting him out.”.

In other parts of the conversation, Carlson either simply hands over the microphone to Putin or openly echoes Kremlin’s theses, such as those about “Ukrainian puppets” and Ukraine’s “unwillingness” to engage in negotiations.

Tucker Carlson about negotiations,

“Do you think Zelenskyi has the freedom to negotiate a settlement to this conflict?”

Tucker Carlson on the “breakdown of negotiations”,

“You already said correctly, it’s been reported that Ukraine was prevented from negotiating a peace settlement by the former British Prime Minister acting on behalf of the Biden administration. So, of course they’re a satellite. Big countries control small countries. That’s not new. And that’s why I asked about dealing directly with the Biden administration, which is making these decisions, not President Zelenskyi of Ukraine”.

Imbalance, bias, unreliability — these are the standards of “honest journalism” according to Tucker Carlson. While Putin’s standards have become Russian (or Soviet?) history textbooks and KGB manuals.

“A little historical background”

In the interview, Vladimir Putin talked a lot about history. He immediately started with lies — promising to give a brief historical overview “for 30 seconds or one minute,” but instead manipulated history for almost half the time. However, his historical “knowledge” turned out to be very poor. For example, he decided to tell the story of the Baptism of Rus under Volodymyr the Great, suggesting that it marked the beginning of the strengthening of the Russian state.

Vladimir Putin about the Baptism of Rus,

“The next, very significant date in the history of Russia, was 988. This was the Baptism of Russia, when Prince Vladimir, the great-grandson of Rurik, baptized Russia and adopted Orthodoxy, or Eastern Christianity. From this time the centralized Russian state began to strengthen. Why? Because of a single territory, integrated economic ties, one and the same language and, after the Baptism of Russia, the same faith and rule of the Prince. The centralized Russian state began to take shape.”

Russia has long distorted the history of the Baptism of Rus. They introduced a holiday in honor of the baptism (after it happened in Ukraine), erected a monument to Volodymyr the Great near the Kremlin, and on the anniversary of the Baptism in 2013, the service in Kyiv was led by the Moscow Patriarch Kirill.

Putin also constantly manipulates the terms “Rus” and “Rus lands,” which were used in relation to the territories that are part of modern Ukraine. Russia constantly tries to portray itself as the successor to Rus, but it has no relation to it. This happened after the renaming of the Moscow Tsardom to the Russian Empire — the task arose to justify the succession of the name “Russian” from the princely Rus. Catherine II coped with this “wonderfully,” under whose direction a revision of all ancient sources was carried out, which were rewritten or destroyed. In this way, Russia “confirmed” its right to the political and cultural heritage of Rus, but essentially distorted our history.

Putin also doesn’t forget about the uprising led by Bohdan Khmelnytskyi from 1648 to 1657. Here he tells how Warsaw refused Khmelnytskyi, and he supposedly had to turn to Moscow, which took them in.

Vladimir Putin on the Pereiaslav Council in 1654,

“And in 1654, even a bit earlier, the people who were in control of the authority over that part of the Russian lands, addressed Warsaw, I repeat, demanding their rights be observed that they send to them rulers of Russian origin and Orthodox faith. When Warsaw did not answer them and in fact rejected their demands, they turned to Moscow so that Moscow took them away.”

Firstly, the Zaporozhian Cossack Army and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were in conflict at the time, so it’s unclear how and from whom Khmelnytskyi demanded reinforcements from Warsaw.

Secondly, information about the swearing-in of a large number of individuals (over 100,000) to the Moscow delegation is known only from Russian sources. The March articles (the agreement formed after the Pereiaslav Council of 1654) were not ratified by the Cossack Council. Additionally, the agreement was not supported by the Bratslav, Poltava, and Uman regiments, the Zaporozhian Sich, the clergy led by Bishop Sylvester Kosiv, and a significant portion of the Cossack leadership, including Ivan Bohun, Petro Doroshenko, and Ivan Sirko.

Bogdan Khmelnytskyi himself never planned to unite with the “fraternal” people. Such a union was not unusual at the time; during the signing of the agreement, Khmelnytskyi sought a military-political protectorate over Hetmanate. However, he never intended to transfer Ukrainian lands under tsarist rule. Vasyl Pavlov, a researcher at the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, reported that the autonomy of the Cossack state (the rights and freedoms of the Cossacks) was preserved in the signed treaty. Thus, at least until the 1750s, there existed a state border between the Zaporozhian Host and the Moscow state (later, the Russian Empire), with a customs office operating at the border.

Furthermore, after signing the agreement, the Cossacks received a tsarist guarantee to preserve the state rights of the Hetmanate, which the Russian side soon violated, and the signing of further agreements led to a significant reduction in the autonomy of the Zaporozhian Host.

Vladimir Putin about the “creation” of Ukraine,

“In 1922, when the USSR was being established, the Bolsheviks started building the USSR and established the Soviet Ukraine, which had never existed before… So in this sense, we have every reason to affirm that Ukraine is an artificial state that was shaped at Stalin’s will.”

The President of Russia also recalled his favorite narrative, allegedly, Ukraine was an artificially created state by the Communists. However if usually Putin believed that Vladimir Lenin was the “creator” of Ukraine, now the leader of Russia has transferred this “title” to Stalin. Although in reality, none of the “leaders of the proletariat” have anything to do with the creation of Ukraine.

Ukrainian statehood traces its origins back to the 9th century during the formation of Kyivan Rus. Meanwhile, Yuriy Dolgorukiy founded Moscow only in the 12th century. The first written mention of the word “Ukraine” appeared in 1187 in the Kyiv Chronicle. Initially, this word could have been used to mean “borderland” or frontier, but later it acquired the meaning of “land” or “state”.

Ukraine was also depicted on maps. For instance, in 1648, French military engineer Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan compiled the “General Map of Ukraine”, which depicted almost all the territories of modern Ukraine, except for the southwestern border and most of Crimea. On another map created by Guillaume Sanson in 1674, the inscription “Vkraine ou Pays des Cosaques” (“Ukraine — land of the Cossacks”) can be seen.

Image of the map “General Map of Ukraine” by Beauplan, 1648. Source: Likbez

Throughout history, Ukraine has existed under different names: the Galician-Volhynian Principality, the Cossack State (autonomy within the Grand Duchy of Poland-Lithuania), the Ukrainian State led by Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi, the Ukrainian People’s Republic, and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic.

In 1921, Soviet forces defeated the army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, destroying Ukrainian statehood and transforming Ukraine into one of the republics of the Soviet Union. However, the existence of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) does not imply that Ukraine as a state emerged in the 1920s at the instigation of communist leaders. Ukraine has a long history, one aspect of which is the Soviet occupation. During the 70 years of Ukraine’s presence in the Soviet Union, Russian officials created many myths about Ukrainian history, which Russia, as the successor to the Soviets, continues to support.

These narratives, like the narrative of the “one nation” and Ukrainian nationalists who allegedly collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War, are “evergreen” topics that Russian officials repeat in almost every interview. They do this not by chance, because the more often you repeat an idea, the greater the chance that it will eventually be remembered and accepted as truth. 

Historical myths are one of Putin’s favorite topics. VoxCheck has already debunked Kremlin fakes presented in the article by the dictator titled “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians.”

“You tricked us…”

Apparently, the dictator still clings to the image of thirty years ago and feels aggrieved that his ultimatums are not taken seriously by the world. Allegedly, in the 1990s, they “dared” not to let Russia into the Western community, but Russia was also deceived by the promise that NATO would not approach the Russian border.

Vladimir Putin about NATO expansion,

“You tricked us (I don’t mean you personally when I say ”you“, of course, I’m talking about the United States), the promise was that NATO would not expand eastward, but it happened five times, there were five waves of expansion. We tolerated all that, we were trying to persuade them, we were saying: ”Please don’t, we are as bourgeois now as you are, we are a market economy, and there is no Communist Party power. Let’s negotiate.”

Let’s start with the fact that the Kremlin itself refused the possibility of rapprochement with the West — perhaps realizing that it did not meet the criteria for NATO membership, the main one of which is readiness to support security in the North Atlantic region, not to destroy it.

Guarantees regarding the limits of NATO expansion are one of the main myths that Putin repeats in almost every message. This refers to the events of 1990 when the last leader of the USSR, Gorbachev, allegedly received assurances that NATO would not expand eastward from Germany. However, Gorbachev himself repeatedly admitted that he did not request nor receive any promises regarding further expansion of the Alliance.

Russia also tries to argue that NATO’s non-expansion was tied to agreements regarding the reunification of Germany in 1990. But in reality, Western officials meant the non-placement of NATO troops on the territory of East Germany. The Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany (1990) also does not contain any commitments from NATO countries regarding non-expansion in Eastern Europe. The idea of discussing this issue even before the collapse of the Soviet bloc is absurd.

Therefore, NATO had no legal obligations to Russia regarding non-expansion in Eastern Europe, and the alliance’s “open door” policy remained unchanged throughout its existence.

Ukraine, as a sovereign and independent state, is an independent player on the international stage and has the right to choose its own foreign policy path without directives. However, the Kremlin flatly refuses to accept that this path may differ from the Russian one.

Vladimir Putin on NATO expansion,

“And during the elections in already independent, sovereign Ukraine, which gained its independence as a result of the Declaration of Independence, and, by the way, it says that Ukraine is a neutral state, and in 2008 suddenly the doors or gates to NATO were open to it. Oh, come on! This is not how we agreed.”

And since the “younger brother” is incapable of daring such blatant betrayal independently, another culprit had to be found. It was found quickly — predictably, the United States.

Vladimir Putin about the Revolution of Dignity,

“CIA did its job to complete the coup. I think one of the Deputy Secretaries of State said that it cost a large sum of money, almost 5 billion [dollars]. But the political mistake was colossal! Why would they have to do that? All this could have been done legally, without victims, without military action, without losing Crimea. We would have never considered to even lift a finger, if it hadn’t been for the bloody developments on Maidan.”

Russia decided on war regardless of the results of the Revolution of Dignity. For example, the operation to annex Crimea began on February 20, 2014, just a couple of days before Yanukovych fled. The Kremlin was just waiting for a reason to attack Ukraine. And before 2014, Russia attempted to seize Ukrainian territory — one can recall the attempts to capture Tuzla Island in the Kerch Strait in 2003 and the support for pro-Russian separatists in Crimea in the 1990s.

Regarding financing, in 2014, then-Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland confirmed that the United States regularly assisted Ukraine in pursuing key reforms, and this assistance since 1991 amounted to around $5 billion across various development areas in the country. However, supporting reforms in no way implies an attempt to organize a “coup.” Moreover, similar projects were carried out by the American side regarding Russia, and their total funding amount was higher — $18 billion from the same year 1991. However, Putin did not mention this figure in the interview — it would have been inconvenient.

Instead, he recalled the old narrative about the “oppression” of Russians in Ukraine. Allegedly, Ukrainians deliberately adopted a law that deprives Russians of the status of a “titular nation.” Once again, he justified his army’s invasion of Ukraine with this.

Vladimir Putin on the law on indigenous peoples in Ukraine,

“Ukraine announced that the Russians were (a law was adopted) a non-titular nationality, while passing laws that limit the rights of non-titular nationalities in Ukraine. Ukraine, having received all these southeastern territories as a gift from the Russian people, suddenly announced that the Russians were a non-titular nationality in that territory. Is it normal? All this put together led to the decision to end the war that neo-Nazis started in Ukraine in 2014.”

The myth of the “titular” nation relates to Putin’s propaganda about Russia supposedly “founding” Ukraine. In reality, it is the Ukrainians who are the titular nation, meaning they are the ones who formed the state.

In July 2021, the law “On Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine” came into force. However, Putin distorted the law and attributed Russians to indigenous peoples. Although indigenous peoples are autochthonous ethnic communities formed on the territory of Ukraine, they are the bearers of their own language and culture, constitute an ethnic minority among its population, and do not have their own state formation outside of Ukraine. Among the indigenous peoples are those who formed in Crimea — Crimean Tatars, Karaites, and Krymchaks.

However, Russians do not fall under this definition. They are only an ethnic minority, as they have their own state formed outside the territory of Ukraine. The narrative about the “oppression” of Russians is also untrue. The Constitution of Ukraine guarantees the equality of all citizens and the development of all ethnic minorities in the country, including Russians.

“We have never refused negotiations”

Of course, it didn’t go without the standard blame-shifting: allegedly, it’s Ukraine that doesn’t want to talk, while Russia is ready for negotiations. However, in his understanding, “negotiations” mean Ukraine’s capitulation.

Vladimir Putin about the “ban” on negotiations,

“Can they return to this or not? The question is: do they want it or not?

Further on, President of Ukraine issued a decree prohibiting negotiations with us. Let him cancel that decree and that’s it. We have never refused negotiations indeed. We hear all the time: is Russia ready? Yes, we have not refused! It was them who publicly refused. Well, let him cancel his decree and enter into negotiations. We have never refused.”

In fact, Ukraine has long prepared the Formula of Peace, the ultimate goal of which is to invite Russia to negotiations on Ukraine’s terms. President Zelenskyi proposed it in September 2022 at the UN General Assembly session. By the end of December 2023, it was supported by over 80 countries worldwide. Ukraine’s proposals include:

  • radiological, nuclear, food, and energy security;
  • release of all prisoners of war and deportees;
  • implementation of the UN Charter and restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity;
  • withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities;
  • overcoming the consequences of ecocide;
  • prevention of future escalation and confirmation of the end of the war.

Russia rejected this plan. Because it entails the actual implementation of agreements reached in negotiations. From 2014 to 2022, Ukraine conducted about 200 rounds of negotiations with Russia, accompanied by a series of ceasefire agreements — all of which were violated and did not prevent Russia from launching a full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022.

Vladimir Putin about the “breakdown of negotiations” by Ukraine,

“We negotiated with Ukraine in Istanbul, we agreed, he was aware of this. Moreover, the negotiation group leader, Mr. Arakhamia is his last name, I believe, still heads the faction of the ruling party, the party of the President in the Rada. He still heads the Presidential faction in the Rada, the country’s parliament, he still sits there. He even put his preliminary signature on the document I am telling you about. But then he publicly stated to the whole world: “We were ready to sign this document, but Mr. Johnson, then the Prime Minister of Great Britain, came and dissuaded us from doing this saying it was better to fight Russia. They would give everything needed for us to return what was lost during the clashes with Russia. And we agreed with this proposal.“ Look, his statement has been published.”

For the first time, the words allegedly spoken by David Arakhamia were quoted by the Russian MFA representative Maria Zakharova. However, she and Putin took the quote out of context to emphasize that Ukraine is “controlled” by the West or the United States.

In an interview, Arakhamia explained that during the meeting in Istanbul, the Russian delegation insisted on signing a document under which Ukraine would abandon its intentions to join NATO. Additionally, Ukraine would commit to maintaining a neutral status and limiting its military. However, the Ukrainian side did not agree to the Russian conditions, which would have meant the loss of Ukrainian sovereignty.

According to Arakhamia, Western countries did not intervene in the negotiating process in Istanbul. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson later explained that he was “a bit worried at that stage” after the negotiations in Istanbul about a possible agreement between Ukraine and Russia. However, he emphasized that the United Kingdom would support Ukraine in any case. Johnson referred to his “ban” on signing a “peace deal” with Russia as nothing more than Russian propaganda.

It is important to note that these talks were only preparing documents that Zelenskyi and Putin could sign after holding high-level negotiations. Some issues, such as the status of the occupied Crimea and Donbas, remained for discussion exclusively by the country’s leaders. In other words, direct resolution of issues of war and peace was not discussed at all, only preparation for possible negotiations.

Furthermore, negotiations were impossible due to Russian war crimes in the Kyiv region, which became known in early April 2022. Since the beginning of the large-scale invasion, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office has documented over 124,500 Russian military crimes.

Conclusions

The list of myths surrounding Ukraine has not significantly changed in Putin’s speeches over the last 10 years. Similarly, the rhetoric of “independent” Carlson aligns well with the best traditions of Solovyov’s and Skabeeva’s broadcasts. This is precisely the peculiarity of propaganda — it does not have to be too complex or original to influence people. It is enough for it to be repeated: the more often, persistently, and intensively the same ideas are repeated, the better they are ingrained in the consciousness.

This is called the illusion of truth effect or the repetition effect — people are inclined to perceive information as true if they have heard it several times. Even if the assertion itself is unlikely or has already been refuted. Ahead, Ukraine awaits many more speeches from “Carlsons” and “Putins”. Moreover, the former Fox News anchor is just a part of a large network of pro-Kremlin speakers, as VoxCheck has previously reported. Therefore, fact-checkers and journalists have nothing left to do but to increase media literacy among the audience. And to respond to these injections, making the voice of truth louder and stronger than propaganda.

Attention

The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations