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FRONTLINE: Putin's Road to War

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Moscow, Russia Feb. 7, 2022.
Sputnik Photo Agency/Kremlin via Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Moscow, Russia Feb. 7, 2022.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, April 14 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 / On demand with the PBS Video App

As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine intensifies, forcing more than two million Ukrainians to flee the country and become refugees, FRONTLINE will premiere "Putin’s Road to War" — an epic examination of what brought Putin, and the world, to this dangerous tipping point.

Drawing on in-depth conversations with multiple heads of U.S. intelligence agencies, diplomats, Russian politicians, historians and journalists, this new report chronicles defining moments that shaped Putin’s life and leadership, examining the grievances that have pushed him to launch a risky and deadly war with Ukraine.

FRONTLINE "Putin's Road to War" Preview

"I do think this is a culmination. I do think [Putin] sees his life as having led him to this point, to this momentous point,” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson tells FRONTLINE.

From acclaimed FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk and his award-winning political team, "Putin’s Road to War "offers inside analysis from Moscow to Washington, D.C., including revealing new interviews and those originally conducted for the 2017 two-hour FRONTLINE special, "Putin’s Revenge."

Putin's Revenge | Part One

Related: FRONTLINE Interviews: The Putin Files

To understand the story of the war with Ukraine and its implications for the rest of the world, "Putin’s Road to War" first tells the story of Vladimir Putin as a man — revealing how his political motivations and personal history served as a fertile foundation for global conflict.

"This was not the war of the Russian people against the Ukrainian people. This really is Vladimir Putin’s war,” New Yorker staff reporter Susan Glasser tells FRONTLINE. The documentary traces how Putin went from low-ranking KGB agent to power-hungry, long-serving president of Russia with the ability to bring Europe to the brink of deadly nuclear conflict.


“Vladimir Putin is going to rank up there as one of the worst and most brutal killers of the 21st century. And his career in power has been marked by a willingness to use extreme force and violence and war as a tool of his repression, internal and external,” Glasser adds.

As violence escalates in Ukraine and Putin vows to arrest and imprison any Russian civilians speaking out against him, "Putin’s Road to War" is an urgent report on what led to this historic moment and how it could still unfold.

“You're starting to see in retrospect how this all happened and how much of it was driven just by one man, his deranged ideas, and how everybody around him thought it was a terrible idea, but was too scared to say anything about it or to resist,” Puck News Founding Partner and Washington Correspondent Julia Ioffe tells FRONTLINE. “He is the most dangerous he has ever been because it is now existential for him.”

Putin's Road to War: Julia Ioffe (interview) | FRONTLINE

Watch On Your Schedule:

“Putin’s Road to War” will be available to watch in full at and in the PBS Video App starting Mar. 15, 2022, at 7/6c. It will premiere on KPBS TV, and on YouTube at 9/8c. In tandem with the documentary’s premiere, FRONTLINE will also publish six new interviews from the film and as part of the FRONTLINE Transparency Project.

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A FRONTLINE production with the Kirk Documentary Group. The director is Michael Kirk. The producers are Michael Kirk, Mike Wiser, Vanessa Fica, Jim Gilmore and Philip Bennett. The writers are Michael Kirk and Mike Wiser. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. Distributed internationally by PBS International.