This film of Russian President Vladimir Putin, made by Canadian public broadcast service CBC, is a timeless profile of a man who is both master and prisoner of the Kremlin. It tracks his unlikely arrival on the political scene and his energetic immersion into lining his own pockets and projecting himself ever upwards.
It shows a man as slavishly loyal to his bosses on his way up as he is contemptuous of the Russian people, from the food aid scandals in St Petersburg 30 years ago when $124 million disappeared without trace, to the building of the palace at Sochi and the corruption and fear that surrounds his roller coaster existence.
In 2015 the median wealth of the average Russian was some 20% less than the average Indian and 35% of the nation’s wealth was in the pockets of 110 people. As Ukraine began to prosper and Russia became poorer, so the President’s attention turned towards putting a stop to this potentially dangerous example being set to his benighted populace.
The film documents a sense of entitlement regarding former Soviet territories, fuelled by a belief that they were stolen and that Russia has a right to them. This simple message is one that many people believe. Playing the nationalist card started in 2000 with waging war on Chechnya, which saw him heroically take the presidential mantle from Boris Yeltsin; 2008 in Georgia and 2014 when his intervention in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine played well with the electorate after the street riots of 2012.
British journalists and Russia specialists Ed Lucas is prominent. The film ends with a telling anecdote by Natalya Geovrkyan, Putin’s biographer and now an exile in Paris. The young Putin learned an important lesson in the tiny one room apartment in which his family lived when he cornered a rat and got bitten.