Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host who now has a show on the social network X, has been spotted in Moscow in recent days, leading to speculation in Russia and the United States that he is about to achieve his long-stated goal of interviewing President Vladimir V. Putin.
If so, Mr. Carlson would be the first American media figure to land a formal interview with the Russian leader since he invaded Ukraine nearly two years ago.
Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, has indicated that Mr. Putin was denying requests from Western new outlets because their countries had been “stupefied” by anti-Russian propaganda. But Mr. Carlson has been a defender of Mr. Putin while attacking his Western critics, placing him at the vanguard of a pro-Putin wing of the American conservative movement.
In a call with reporters on Monday, Mr. Peskov said: “Many foreign journalists come to the Russian Federation every day. Many continue to work here, and we welcome this.” He added, “As for possible interviews with the president, including with foreign media, we have nothing to report at the moment.”
Russian media on Monday showed a black Mercedes van said to be transporting Mr. Carlson around Moscow entering and then leaving the state administrative building that houses Mr. Peskov’s office.
On television and online, Russian state media has treated Mr. Carlson as a visiting celebrity, offering a stream of photos and videos of his various stops — arriving at the airport, dining at a restaurant, taking in the “Spartacus” ballet at the Bolshoi Theater.
In one video in wide circulation, including on X, Mr. Tucker told a self-professed fan that he was there because “I wanted to talk to people and look around and see how it was doing — and it’s doing very well.” Asked about a possible interview with Mr. Putin, Mr. Carlson shrugged and said, “We’ll see.”
Less than a year ago, Mr. Carlson was one of the top stars on cable news as the host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News, where he was best known for trafficking in white nationalist themes and conspiracy theories.
Fox abruptly canceled his program last spring, after a series of controversies both on and off air. Mr. Carlson has had a much lower profile from his new perch on X, where he started his own show last year.
As photographs and video of Mr. Carlson in Moscow began circulating on social media over the weekend, his fans reveled in their hope that an interview was in the offing — and his critics slammed what they portrayed as appeasement of an autocrat waging an illegal war while brutally cracking down on dissent at home.
News of his arrival in Russia received a decidedly warm reaction in Moscow. In a report about local reaction to his visit, a woman tells an interviewer on the Russian state outlet Sputnik, “He is the bravest and most courageous American journalist today.’’ A man adds, “He is known for telling the truth, which is why he often faces criticism in the United States.”
Mr. Carlson is a familiar face in the country. When he was still at Fox, Mr. Carlson’s commentaries were often featured on Russian state television, including those that painted Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, as a “dictator” waging a “regime change” war against Russia at the behest of American and British masters. Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. It did so with the explicit goal of ousting Mr. Zelensky’s government.
Upon Mr. Carlson’s cancellation at Fox, Russian outlets attributed it to his “fearless” reporting on Ukraine.
Mr. Carlson has claimed without evidence that the U.S. government had thwarted his past attempt to interview Mr. Putin.
Mr. Carlson has promoted his show on X as a bastion of free speech.
Mr. Putin has intensified his curtailment of free speech in Russia during the Ukrainian war. Media outlets in the country were ordered to refer to it as a “special military operation.” Journalists face possible jail time for calling it an invasion.
Mr. Putin’s government has been holding Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, in jail for nearly a year. The government has charged him with espionage — an accusation vehemently denied by Mr. Gershkovich, his newspaper and the U.S. government, which has declared that he is being wrongfully held.