From unremarkable KGB recruit to master of kompromat, this absorbing documentary shows how Russia’s leader wormed his way into Moscow’s halls of power and made them his own
In 1973, Soviet Central Television aired a new drama series called Seventeen Moments of Spring, about a Russian secret agent posing as a high-ranking Nazi official called Stierlitz. Stierlitz, James Bond’s Soviet equivalent, was a deliberate propaganda creation – the book on which the series was based was commissioned by the then head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov. In one concrete sense, the effort was successful: it made 20-year-old Vladimir Putin want to become a spy.
The three-part documentary series Putin: A Russian Spy Story (Channel 4) portrays the Russian leader – who, if you include his contrived second stint as prime minister, has outlasted three US presidents and looks well positioned to see off a few more – through the prism of his past. It features interviews with those who have worked with him, those who have known him well and those who have run up against him. Some, including Boris Yeltsin’s daughter Tatyana Yumasheva, are speaking on UK television for the first time.