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ITV chiefs accused of being ‘Putin’s propagandists’ ahead of documentary on Ukraine from Russian perspective


ITV bosses are facing accusations that a new documentary on the Ukraine war will be used by ‘Putin‘s propagandists’.

Publicity material says programme makers went on a ‘journey into the Russian side of the war in Eastern Ukraine’ to report on what is ‘almost exclusively a hidden and otherwise inaccessible side of this conflict’.

The 1hr 50mins special, Ukraine’s War: The Other Side, will be screened on ITV1 tomorrow night. It was made by Sean Langan, who was accompanied by a fixer from Russia‘s foreign ministry during filming.

Last night, critics said ITV should not be showing the film just days after the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. They also warned that clips from the documentary are likely to be used by supporters of the Moscow regime in their social media war against the West.

In the documentary, Mr Langan is repeatedly told by interviewees – both civilians and soldiers – that Russia wants to get rid of the ‘Nazi’ government in Kyiv.

The 1hr 50mins special, Ukraine's War: The Other Side, will be screened on ITV1 tomorrow night. It was made by Sean Langan, who was accompanied by a fixer from Russia's foreign ministry during filming

The 1hr 50mins special, Ukraine’s War: The Other Side, will be screened on ITV1 tomorrow night. It was made by Sean Langan, who was accompanied by a fixer from Russia’s foreign ministry during filming

A scene from the documentary. Last night, critics said ITV should not be showing the film just days after the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

A scene from the documentary. Last night, critics said ITV should not be showing the film just days after the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Critics also warned that clips from the documentary are likely to be used by supporters of the Moscow regime in their social media war against the West

Critics also warned that clips from the documentary are likely to be used by supporters of the Moscow regime in their social media war against the West

One scene shows a masked militia member claiming he was with the Russian forces when they invaded Bucha, north of Kyiv, in April 2022. Investigators later recovered 458 bodies, as well as finding evidence of summary executions and mass rape of women and girls.

But the masked man denied any massacre took place and walked away from the camera unchallenged.

In another scene, the filmmaker visits a stock of what are said to be captured NATO weapons with a Russian tank commander in Eastern Ukrainian town Svatove when the building is stormed by a group of men, who it emerges are from the Russian Spetsnaz special forces.

One says: ‘Why did you bring him in? All hell is going to break loose now. I’m eating his liver!’

Another says: ‘Tell him we’re looking at his liver. He’s always wanted to murder someone.’

After Sean persuades them to be interviewed, the men – who are kitted out in balaclavas and battle dress – tell him the Russians are not to be underestimated, with one saying: ‘Study the Russian history carefully, and you will understand that the Russians never wanted War. The Russians don’t attack, the Russians really do end wars.’

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, who has been to Ukraine twice since the war started, criticised the network for the film, saying: ‘My view it is a mistake to show this documentary now by ITV after Navalny, and make the Russian side look human.

‘Of course, we are all human – but in this case the Russians are aggressors and they have brought nothing but destruction to Ukraine.

‘My fear now is that bits of this documentary will be used by Russian activists to prove their point – that Russia is on the good side.’

In the documentary, Mr Langan is repeatedly told by interviewees - both civilians and soldiers - that Russia wants to get rid of the 'Nazi' government in Kyiv

In the documentary, Mr Langan is repeatedly told by interviewees – both civilians and soldiers – that Russia wants to get rid of the ‘Nazi’ government in Kyiv  

Mr Langan, an independent film-maker, has previously made documentaries that tried to show 'the other side' of a world conflict

Mr Langan, an independent film-maker, has previously made documentaries that tried to show ‘the other side’ of a world conflict 

Lee Anderson, the Tory MP for Ashfield, said: ‘I don’t think this documentary should be shown. At a time when the whole world is trying to help Ukraine in this difficult time, we need the support of the British public. But a documentary like this could reduce the support of the British public, and this is the worry, so these journalists must be careful what they are doing.’

Anthony Glees, a terrorism expert at Buckingham University, said: ‘I think it is totally a mistake to show this documentary.

‘The people of Ukraine are not Nazis – and if there is anyone who is a Nazi, it’s Vladimir Putin.

‘So if this is repeated by people in this documentary, it could give oxygen to Putin’s propagandists.’

But ITV has stood by the documentary. A spokesman said: ‘This documentary is an example of independent journalism, which tells a human story of the impact of war.

Sean Langan during filming. Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, who has been to Ukraine twice since the war started, criticised ITV for the film, saying: 'My view it is a mistake to show this documentary now by ITV after Navalny, and make the Russian side look human'

Sean Langan during filming. Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, who has been to Ukraine twice since the war started, criticised ITV for the film, saying: ‘My view it is a mistake to show this documentary now by ITV after Navalny, and make the Russian side look human’

A scene from Ukraine's War: The Other Side. The documentary also interviews ordinary Ukrainians in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region who say they are fed up of the war

A scene from Ukraine’s War: The Other Side. The documentary also interviews ordinary Ukrainians in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region who say they are fed up of the war

‘This film is a unique opportunity to see for ourselves what is happening on the Russian-occupied side of the front line, clearly set within the wider context of how the conflict was initiated by the Russian invasion.

‘The film provides a balanced insight into this war and was produced entirely free from any political influence.’

In the documentary, Mr Langan manages to speak to members of the Spetznaz, or Russian special forces, and eventually ends up on the frontline in a wooded area near Kharkhiv called Sherwood Forest, which had just been taken over by the Russian forces after months of heavy fighting.

The documentary also interviews ordinary Ukrainians in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region who say they are fed up of the war.

Mr Langan, an independent film-maker, has previously made documentaries that tried to show ‘the other side’ of a world conflict.

In previous documentaries, he interviewed the late leader of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin, in Gaza, who was killed by Israel in 2004.

Mr Langan made another documentary where he interviewed Taliban fighters in Afghanistan in 2007. The following year, he was kidnapped by the Taliban, but was released three months later.



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