Documentary - Putin: A Russian Spy Story


A three part documentary series starts on Channel 4 next week, charting the rise and rise of Vladimir Putin...

Here's the press release:

“This is the code of the spy. Nothing is forgiven and nothing is forgotten.” - Arkady Ostrovsky - Russian Editor, The Economist

“For Putin there are enemies and there are traitors. Enemies are something you can live with. But the traitors are a totally different kettle of fish. Betrayal is one thing he absolutely doesn’t tolerate” - Vladimir Kara-Murza - Russian Opposition Politician


This year Vladimir Putin marked 20 years in office with a dramatic overhaul of the Russian constitution, which could allow him to retain power after his presidential term expires in 2024.

Timely and thrilling, this three-part series reveals the man behind the Bond-villain image; a teenage tearaway who was so taken by the Russian version of James Bond he became a spy; a president who has been accused of employing exotic poisons against his enemies and who is blamed for bringing Brexit and Trump to the West. Told in his own words with an extraordinary range of archive footage, we explore Putin’s rise to power, his personal life, control and his global expansion.

Putin’s rise to the presidency dawned a new age for Russian politics, shaped by an acute sense of betrayal, pride and anger. Through first-hand testimonials of those closest to him, we piece together what has made the man who rules Russia today, with interviews from:

• Tatyana Yumasheva, daughter of former President Boris Yeltsin – talking on UK television for the first time.
• The team of advisers who set out to create the “Cult of Putin”.
• Russian and western political experts.
• Victims’ friends and families including Marina Litvinenko, wife of Alexander Litvinenko.
• Vladimir Kara-Murza - a protégé of murdered Putin rival Boris Nemtsov and an opposition politician in his own right.

Putin: A Russian Spy Story tracks and dissects the conflict between Putin and his many enemies, hearing the stories of those who have opposed him. Russian politician Vladimir Kara-Murza suffered two near-fatal poisonings in Moscow, which he believes were “retribution for my political activity in the Russian opposition”. He comments, “Vladimir Putin’s background is the Soviet KGB, one of the most repressive organisations in the history of humanity. He’s doing what he was taught to do. Manipulate, lie, recruit, repress.”

We hear from Marina Litvinenko, wife of Alexander Litvinenko, a former officer of the Russian FSB secret service who stood up to Putin and winds up dead on British soil. His final photo made worldwide front pages. Marina explains, “I was so against take a picture of him. But, Sasha said, ‘No, Marina. We should do this because people need to see what they did to me”.

We see how Putin’s presidency becomes his life, as he distances himself from his wife, who he eventually divorces, he begins promoting a hyper masculine image of himself in a series of TV stunts, and ensures he is surrounded by his former KGB colleagues in office.

As president, Putin set about ‘making Russia great again’ and repositioning it on the world stage. He has outlasted three American presidents and four British prime ministers. His political playbook is admired and imitated by leaders ranging from Donald Trump to Rodrigo Duterte to Mohammed Bin Salman to Boris Johnson, making him arguably the most influential leader of his time. But he is also accused of purveying fake news, interfering in elections and ruthlessly silencing his opponents. Putin and the Russian government have vehemently denied suggestions of corruption and accusations of foul play, as Putin says, ‘This spy story, as we say, is not worth five kopecks. Or even five pounds for that matter.’

As Putin makes himself the most formidable president Russia has ever seen, the question is will he truly ever be able to step away from power?



Putin: A Russian Spy Story starts Monday 23rd March, 9pm on Channel 4