“Across social media, Kremlin sources have moved quickly to take advantage of Tucker Carlson’s interview as an opportunity to amplify propaganda aimed at building support for Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine,” Ben Scott, director at Reset, a London-based nonprofit that tracks disinformation campaigns, tells WIRED.
This blanket coverage was repeated across Russia’s state-run media. Newsroom home pages are filled with multiple stories about the interview, and many of them highlight how successful Putin has been at getting his message to a Western audience.
In one of a dozen articles published by state-run news agency RIA Novosti, the author claimed the interview was “aimed at a western audience that knows nothing about Russian history so that it realizes that Russians and Ukrainians are one people,” referencing Putin’s 30-minute introduction to Russian history that went back to 862.
Even before the interview was published, Russian state-run TV channels had been tracking Carlson’s every move while in Moscow, including his trip to the Bolshoi ballet and the fact he was charging his phone and using Wi-Fi.
The interview was also broadly disseminated on Telegram, including on channels created or renamed especially for the occasion, according to research shared with WIRED by Reset. These channels quickly accumulated large followings: One newly-created Telegram channel called “Tucker Carlson in Russian” gained over 18,000 new subscribers interested in the interview. Another channel, renamed “Tucker Carlson’s Interview with Putin,”has over 200,000 subscribers. Some pro-Kremlin Telegram channels published dashboards alleging through-the-roof statistics about how the interview performed online, while others posted screenshots of charts claiming to show interest in the interview on Google over time.
On Russia Today’s official Telegram channel, the news station celebrated how Western media reacted, writing: “Mainstream media’s Putin-Carlson meltdown reveals the Western narrative’s weak hand.” Other Telegram channels also posted clips of western media reactions to the interview.
“Much of the Russian audience believes [the interview] was conducted with the sole vision of educating the West,” Kyle Walter, director of research at Logically, a company that uses AI to track disinformation, tells WIRED. “Many channels are focusing on just how much attention the interview got, as well as the articulated lengthy history associated with Russia that ‘America does not have’.”
In the aftermath of the interview, the Vice Speaker of the State Duma and presidential candidate from the New People party Vladislav Davankov suggested that the Russian telecommunications agency, Roskomnadzor, should unblock X because the platform hosting the Putin interview had shown “it is neutral in disseminating information” and had “deleted more than 90 percent of the content prohibited in Russia” since Musk took control.
Many Russian Telegram users also celebrated Elon Musk’s role in disseminating the interview: On his X profile, Musk pinned the interview and encouraged followers to watch.