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Thursday 12 March 2020

Putin: A Russian Spy Story

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

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