Watch Part of a Film Commissioned by Vladimir Putin — About Himself

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a media conference after a G-8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, on June 18, 2013.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a media conference after a G-8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, on June 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool) (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)

January 12, 2015

In 1992, as Vladimir Putin rose through the ranks of St. Petersburg’s government, he commissioned a film about himself called Vlast, a Russian word meaning “power.” He used the film to reveal a secret about his past, and to make a promise he didn’t keep.

“Putin had an agenda,” recalled Igor Shadkhan, who made the film. “He wanted to admit that he had been a KGB agent in foreign reconnaissance.”

For Putin, the move was strategic in that it allowed him to out himself as a former agent of the reviled spy agency — and prevent any future attempts to blackmail him about his past.

The insight into Putin’s ambition is part of FRONTLINE’s film Putin’s Way, airing at 10/9c Tuesday on PBS. The film also examines the allegations of corruption that have trailed Putin’s rise to the presidency.

At the time that he commissioned the documentary, Putin was working for St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, his former law professor. In the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, the city was experiencing terrible food shortages. To fill the shelves, a scheme was devised: Companies would be allocated raw materials, like oil and minerals, to be sold abroad, and the money would then be used to buy food.

In the film he commissioned, Putin, who was then deputy mayor, assured hungry residents that food was on its way.

But, as seen in the excerpt below from Putin’s Way, most of the promised food never arrived:

For the full story on Vladimir Putin’s reign — and the allegations of criminality and corruption that have dogged him for more than two decades — watch Putin’s Way, which premieres on-air and online on Tuesday (check local listings).

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