Ode to Joy: Relishing Putin’s Interview to Tucker Carlson Russian Media Monitoring Report, 5-11 February 2024

Last week, Russian media finally decided who their favorite American was. American journalist Tucker Carlson ticked all the boxes: he respects Putin, understands Russian national interests, and is ready to broadcast the Kremlin’s position. Carlson instantly became Russian propaganda's darling and the focus of media attention. Carlson’s visit coverage culminated in Putin's interview which was touted to have broken through the information blockade set up by the West.

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This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online para journalists to manipulate public opinion.

A True American

Last week, Russian propagandists turned paparazzi. They followed Tucker Carlson’s every step: Tucker Carlson went down into the metro, Tucker Carlson rode the tram, Tucker Carlson ate some fast food, Tucker Carlson turned left, Tucker Carlson was spotted here, Tucker Carlson was spotted there.

The arrival of Tucker Carlson, a “true American”, caused unprecedented excitement. When rumors about Carlson's plan to interview Vladimir Putin were finally confirmed, the attention of Russian media turned into a frenzy, and Carlson instantly became their favorite American.

Russian propaganda presents Carlson as an American journalist who is said to be bold enough to tell the truth about Russia and its interests. His words “Most Americans today are not informed about what is happening in the special military operation zone and, therefore, cannot soberly assess the situation” were repeated many times like a mantra. The disinformers gleefully promised that Americans would finally learn the truth to help understand Russia and its president.

Tucker Carlson rose to prominence in the United States in 2016 when he got his political show on the Republican Fox News channel.

He was repeatedly caught spreading Russian fakes such as the claims about American secret biolabs or the ban on orthodox Christianity in Ukraine.

After being fired from Fox News, Carlson started hosting his own show on Elon Musk's X platform. At the end of 2023, he launched his own media platform which he uses to broadcast interviews with American politicians and influential public figures who share his views.

According to Russian propaganda, Putin’s interview with Carlson was a momentous event, a breakthrough in the information blockade, and an opportunity to reach Western audiences. Furthermore, they claimed that the West wants to diffuse this media bomb at all costs and seeks to punish Carlson: “The European Union is considering sanctions against U.S. journalist Tucker Carlson for his interview”.

After the interview was published, Russian propagandists began to praise and quote their leader ignoring the scoffing at Putin’s extensive historical digressions even from Carlson’s loyal followers such as Elon Musk.

For about an hour and a half, Putin delved deep into history: “Rurik's successor... Prince Oleg... 988 ... Batu Khan ... Catherine the Great ... Bogdan Khmelnitsky ... the partition of Czechoslovakia ... It was Poland that provoked Hitler.”

To explain this verbal anomaly, Russian media began publishing comments allegedly posted by American social media users: “You can never understand a country’s actions without knowing its history and culture. 30 minutes is only a brief digest”; “The problem with Americans is that they have short memory while Russians’ memory is long”; “I forgot the most important thing: the right to self-determination <...> The government of Ukraine suppressed the people’s will to secede from the common state which makes Ukraine the aggressor. Just like King George in 1776”; “The interview was supposed to last three hours. It was absolutely phenomenal — even the history lesson. I would love to hear more: kudos to the interpreter, well done!”

The propaganda also used the interview to highlight the age difference between Biden and Putin. Biden was claimed to be suffering from memory loss, an apparent sign of dementia, but look at Putin — full of strength and energy!

Conspirology was also added to the mix. It turns out that everything is run by the CIA which manipulates even American presidents: “There, he finally said it: our CIA guys are behind everything. This is old news for us, but what a huge revelation it must be for them”.

The propaganda called the conversation between Putin and Carlson the “interview of the year” and claimed that Putin had finally found a key to Western audiences. It appears that he did get through to at least one person, Tucker Carlson, who began to say that Putin wants peace after recording the interview.

Bananas, You Are Out!

Following the Ecuadorian government’s decision to transfer weapons to the United States which could then be supplied to Ukraine, Russia decided to punish the South American country by banning imports of Ecuadorian bananas: “The Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision (Rosselkhoznadzor) urged the Ecuadorian authorities to revoke the certificates of five companies temporarily”.

The ban was justified with a formal reason: “The recent shipments were found to contain Megaselia scalaris flies”

According to Russia’s agriculture and food safety watchdog, Ecuadorian pests are extremely productive as they find their way into all the products that Ecuador supplies to Russia — from flowers to bananas. “Beginning 9 February, the imports of Ecuadorian carnations to our country are to come under a complete ban. They were also found to contain pests”, and “Rosselkhoznadzor is to launch an investigation into pineapples”.

That being said, Russian media promise that the effects will hardly be noticeable in the domestic market and that Russia will find alternative supply routes: “Ecuadorian bananas should be replaced with produce from other parts of the world”.

Expert predictions, however, have been cautious: “The strained relations between our country and Ecuador may cause a rise in banana prices in Russia by another 20-30%”.

Stories from Ukraine

The propagandists claimed that Ukrainian MPs had voted for the draft law on strengthening mobilization only to get rich: “The members of the Verkhovna Rada were bribed to support the mobilization bill”. They circulated MP Heorhiy Mazurashu’s statements that the law on mobilization is “the evolution of a slave-owning philosophy in Ukraine”.

Amid talk of the Russian army’s use of Starlink units, Russian media quoted Pushilin: “The Armed Forces of Ukraine use Starlink global satellite system by SpaceX to control drones”. They claimed to be able to use the system to intercept Ukrainian drones and then direct them against the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The so-called experts also claimed that Russian military technology was developing so rapidly that the Russians did not even need to use Starlink as the Russian army could render the system useless: “Russian EW assets caused Starlink to shut down over Avdeevka".

The propagandists continued to spread the story which claimed that “Russian forces struck a temporary deployment point of foreign militants in Kharkiv with French mercenaries at the core”. This fake story was first observed in the middle of January.

According to Russian media, “more than 60 militants were killed and more than 20 were wounded”. These messages are to emphasize that Russia is fighting against NATO in Ukraine whose resistance is causing the war to drag on: “France is waging a hybrid war against us bouncing on the verge of direct involvement in the conflict on the NATO side”.

The Problems

As the so-called presidential election campaign in Russia is about to reach its climax, Russians are being convinced about the country’s achievements under Putin’s rule. While staying loyal to the regime, the media cannot completely ignore economic problems.


A number of experts said that “this year...the prices of dairy products and eggs will continue to rise”. Egg and chicken prices have ushered in a harsh reality for Russians: last year they became several times more expensive than before. The assurances from government officials that imports would cause the prices to go down turned out to be empty promises: even the imports of eggs from Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Belarus were of little help.

The reports from the regions of Russia confirm the rise in food prices: "The following fruit and vegetable products rose in price: table beets — 40 rubles per kilo, onions — 44.5 rubles per kilo, white cabbage — up to 42, carrots — 54, bananas — 161, apples — 152, and fresh cucumbers — 282 rubles respectively”; “Last week marked an increase in the prices of beef, sausages, linked sausages, bologna, butter, sunflower oil, whole pasteurized drinking milk of 2.5-3.2% fat content in Orenburg. The prices of sour cream, dry milk mixes for baby food, cookies, black tea, polished rice, potatoes and cucumbers also followed the trend”.

Such news is observed in Russian media every week.


A week ago, we first wrote about how the reluctant compliance of the countries friendly to Russia with the sanction regime against Moscow continues to cause big trouble for the Russian Federation. The trend has continued this week: “An Izhevsk businessman who buys machine tool equipment in China told the news outlet that in December 2023 CZCB bank had notified him about stopping payments on a certain list of goods whose importation into Russia is prohibited by the sanctions. A few weeks later, the bank said it would stop all settlements with Russia regardless of the product or currency of payment”.

As usual, the propaganda reassured and convinced that cooperation would soon be restored as Russian businesses will be able to find ways of cooperating with friendly companies: “Chinese manufacturers are still working with Russian marketplaces which are not trying to please Russia and the West simultaneously. They may already be brokering “silk and CPU routes” through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (including joint project with the Chinese) without forcing buyers to do so”.


Old lifts are becoming a problem for Russia: “Almost 100,000 lifts in buildings throughout Russia require replacement”. The government tried to put the burden on the residents: “The problem with the replacing old lifts in blocks of flats whose management use special accounts to accumulate funds is typical for many cities. The mechanism (of accumulating money for the needs of a particular building) has been in place since 2014. However, even ten years are not enough for the residents of such large regions as Moscow and Moscow region to save for replacing a single lift. All the while the funds are being kept on special accounts depreciating due to inflation”.

Russia, a country with a large budget, could have solved this internal problem, but after the invasion of Ukraine, budget funds were spent to replenish the war chest.

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Therefore, to deal with the problem of aging lifts, it was decided to extend their service life — for now only on paper. “We will have to apply to the Eurasian Commission to extend the total service life of lifts for another 3-5 years. If the request is denied, all the old lifts will have to be permanently taken out of service as restarting them will be against the law”.

The Methodology

To monitor the information published on disinformation websites, we analyzed approximately 500,000 news reports collected from ~ 1,000 Russian websites. The data for the analysis was collected and provided by SemanticForce.

Each paragraph was processed using an algorithm that defines its topic automatically. The resulting topics (i.e. groups with similar content) were short-listed by the topics relating to the war or its consequences for Russia. The number of mentions of a certain topic was then counted for each publication. Our conclusions are based on the respective findings and the quotes from paragraphs referring to each topic.

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