According to all present in Secrets of an oligarch’s wife,, Vladimir Putin is a ruthless, greedy, sociopathic monster who cares only about his own power, wealth and heritage like the titan who united and restored the glory of Mother Russia. The the ongoing war in Ukraineas well as continued imprisonment and harassment opposition leader Alexei Navalny, confirms these claims, although the real hook of the Paramount + documentary about the Russian president is his insider commentary on the women who were closest to the authoritarian oligarchs. What they have to say is not particularly shocking, but it is certainly further proof that the world is in danger from a man who is willing to do anything, to anyone, to achieve his goals.
Narrated by Ranvir Singh, and executive producers Justine Kershaw, Laura Jones and David McNab, Secrets of an oligarch’s wife (coming out on June 28) is a portrait of Putin as “the most dangerous man on the planet,” spoken of mostly by a collection of women associated with great men whose lives he has profoundly influenced. There are only two nominal “wives of the oligarch” that this 90-minute documentary highlighted – Countess Alexandra Tolstoy (a distant cousin of the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy), who spent years with the oligarch Sergei Pugachev; and Tatiana Fokina, the wife of exiled mobile phone oligarch Evgeny Chichvarkin – and even then, the former was never officially married to her Russian billionaire partner. As far as fake advertising is concerned, this is a moderate case, if not a catastrophic development, given that the speakers are doing an adequate job giving first-hand reports of the unrest and terror that Putin has made against anyone who dares to stand in his way. .
For the third opening, Secrets of an oligarch’s wife functions as a fundamental foundation for Putin’s rise to power. When the Soviet Union fell in 1989, Putin was a KGB agent stationed in Dresden, East Germany, and in the Russian “Wild West” that followed in the 1990s under President Boris Yeltsin, he climbed through the country’s political ranks, eventually becoming Yeltsin’s successor when the leader abruptly resigned on December 31, 1999. According to financier and political activist Bill Browder, Yeltsin backed his failed nation – plagued by widespread unemployment, food shortages and crumbling state industry – by selling 40 percent of the country to 22 oligarchs , borrowing money from them and then not repaying the loans. This created a class of billionaire oligarchs with not only immense wealth but also immense political influence, and this group manually elected Putin as Russia’s new president, assuming he is a “boring official” who will meet their demands.
They were wrong. Although Yeltsin turned a blind eye to the oligarchs, who basically acted as mafia bosses, Putin decided to become Russia’s main godfather, demanding huge cuts in their profits (and their unwavering loyalty) and imposing harsh punishments on anyone who disobeyed his wishes. For critical voices in the FSB as Alexander Litvinenko, this meant deadly poisoning. For his former allied entrepreneurs, this meant prosecution and seizure of property. Far from being a “flexible pawn”, Putin proved to be a tyrant without limits. Yet, as he initially looked young, lively, open to the West “a breath of fresh air,” most were happy to overlook his more dictatorial actions. Even when the mysterious deaths of opponents began to pile up, these crimes were committed with convincing enough denial to provide others with an excuse to continue doing business with him.
It’s all well-established territory, and Secrets of an oligarch’s wife it is hardly thorough enough to be a true non-fiction lesson from history. Still, it gets general background details and embellishes the familiar material with stories from Tolstoy and Fokina. For one, life with Pugachev was a whirlwind of glamorous yachts and lavish palaces, which she no doubt loved – at least until Putin decided to turn against his former confidant and send him on the run to France. Fokina, meanwhile, met Chichvarkin only after he fled Russia after Putin’s attempts to seize his empire and prosecute him for all sorts of crimes. In both cases, the women tell stories of Putin’s abomination, the little man complex and brutality, which are then complemented by similar remarks by Litvinen’s widow Marina, as well as Browder, whose colleague was killed after speaking out against Russian corruption and who is … in astonishing an archive clip from a press conference – Putin singles him out as an enemy, at which point Donald Trump expresses his support for the Russian leader’s autocratic intentions.
Tolstoy takes viewers on a tour of some of the many villas the oligarchs own (or previously owned) in London, where many have fled in the last 20 years. But just like Secrets of an oligarch’s wife leaves Tolstoy’s personal details unclear, and so the documentary refuses to emphatically question her willingness to go to bed with a suspicious criminal just because his wealth and influence were tempting. Even Browder, who speaks harshly about Putin, has barely been identified, so his current position on Putin’s target appears as a fact devoid of meaningful context. Talk of Putin’s humble upbringing, and later enthusiasm for life in the lavish Kremlin, is eventually cited as potential reasons for his relentless tyranny, but even that angle seems lean and underdeveloped.
The ongoing siege of Ukraine is briefly discussed towards the end Secrets of an oligarch’s wife, and serves as the latest and heartbreaking example of Putin’s evil. Fokina assumes that Putin is willing to do anything because he is secretly ill, while Browder suggests that he is a mentally ill lunatic who lacks empathy, conscience and normal human emotions – all his life. Lots of old clips threw Putin into an unflattering light, portraying him as a freak with a stone face. Unfortunately, almost every night news program could tell you the same thing, without pretending to be this rather shallow documentary, which wants to reveal untold secrets about the Russian elite to women who were once part of it, and yet it mixes well – published facts and scattered anecdotes to produce unscrupulous results.
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