PBS to Stream New Documentary on Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy

PBS on March 16 announced that Zelenskyy: The Man who Took on Putin, a new documentary profile of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, will premiere as part of special programming on the crisis in Ukraine.

The film premieres on March 18 on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS Video app. The documentary follows Zelenskyy’s improbable rise from actor and stand-up comedian to political outsider, his unlikely but successful bid for the presidency, and his new role as the wartime leader of a nation under siege by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The film also explores Zelenskyy’s game-changing use of social media and television, which has captivated the world as it watches the defiant response of a country and its president. Zelenskyy: The Man Who Took on Putin was executive produced for ITN Productions by George Waldrum and Ian Rumsey. 

PBS also announced that two Frontline programs, Putin’s Road to War and Putin’s Way, are currently streaming on PBS.org and the PBS Video app. Putin’s Road to War tells the story of what led to Putin’s war on Ukraine. Veteran filmmaker Michael Kirk and his team examine the events that shaped the Russian leader, the grievances that drive him and how a growing conflict with the West exploded into war in Europe. Putin’s Way is explores the allegations of criminality and corruption that have accompanied Putin’s reign in Russia. For over two decades, Putin accumulated the wealth and power that led to his autocratic rule and the specter of a new Cold War.
Also available for streaming is POV: The Distant Barking of Dogs, which follows the life of 10-year-old Ukrainian boy Oleg over a year, witnessing the gradual erosion of his innocence beneath the pressures of the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine. Having no other place to go, Oleg and his grandmother Alexandra stay and watch as others leave the village, showing just how crucial — and fragile — family is for survival.

The streaming programs are available on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video app, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and Vizio. 

Netflix Streaming ‘Servant of the People’ Comedy Starring Beleaguered Ukrainian President Zelenskyy

Netflix has begun streaming the 2015 comedy series “Servant of the People,” which stars former actor/comedian and current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy playing a Ukrainian school teacher, who is unexpectedly elected the country’s president after complaining about government corruption. The series ran until 2019 when Zelenskyy actually entered politics on an anti-corruption platform and was elected to the top position in the country.

Of course, today Zelenskyy finds himself in the crosshairs of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the latter’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. The ongoing war has wreaked havoc on Ukraine, destroyed cities, killed thousands of Ukraine and Russian soldiers, in addition to innocent civilians. Zelenskyy remains defiant surrounded by armed resistance fighters in the capitol of Kyiv.

U.S. President Joe Biden today pledged more military aid to Ukraine, which includes sending 9,000 anti-armor systems, 7,000 small arms, 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 20 million rounds of ammunition, and 100 drones to the country.

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WarnerMedia, Discovery Cease All Business Operations in Russia

Warner Bros. Pictures nixing distribution of The Batman in Russia was just the tip of the iceberg. Parent WarnerMedia is reportedly shuttering all business operations in the country (effective today, March 9) in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing military invasion into neighboring Ukraine.

“Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, WarnerMedia is pausing all new business in Russia,” CEO Jason Kilar wrote in a staff memo. “This includes ceasing broadcast of our channels, halting all new content licensing with Russian entities and pausing our planned theatrical and games releases.”

Separately, Discovery, which is acquiring operational control of WarnerMedia, halted operations of 15 broadcast channels it owns and operates through a joint venture with Russia’s National Media Group.

In addition to joining the global outrage to Putin’s unprovoked military aggression, Discovery and WarnerMedia have joined a growing group of Western media that has ceased operations in Russia due to new government-mandated press restrictions.

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On March 4, Russia’s parliament unanimously voted to punish media organizations reporting news not approved by the Kremlin. Dissemination of so-called “fake news” could be met with a sentence up to 15 years in jail. The new law is aimed at halting news critical of the Ukraine invasion. Putin has called his invasion a “special military operation,” and Russian occupying troops “peacekeepers.”

The censorship law, which is on top of government rules mandating Western media distributors carry 20 Russian government channels, prompted Netflix last week to halt operations in the country.

Universal Joins Hollywood Russian Movie Theater Boycott

Universal Pictures March 1 joined four other studios in halting the release of its theatrical movies in Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s ordered invasion of neighboring Ukraine and its capitol in Kyiv by military forces.

Universal said it would halt the Russian theatrical release of Michael Bay’s action thriller Ambulance on April 7. The movie is slated to bow in North America on April 8. The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as bank robbers who hijack an ambulance.

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“In response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, Universal Pictures has paused planned theatrical releases in Russia,” the studio said in a statement.

With the siege violence and casualties rising, Western countries, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, organizations and other companies have imposed sanctions against Russian financial, commercial and sporting interests throughout the world.

Britain Expels 23 Russian Diplomats, ‘Russia Today’ Remains on Air – For Now

British Prime Minister Theresa May March 14 expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the alleged nerve gas attack earlier this month on a former Russian spy and his daughter at a cemetery in Salisbury. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain hospitalized.

The status of RT (formerly “Russia Today”), the 24-hour Putin government-backed TV network broadcasting in the United Kingdom, remains unchanged. Several British politicians have called for banning the network, which features English-language programing on Russia and related cultural, political events.

In response, Russia has threatened to expel all British media should RT be stripped of its operating license in the United Kingdom.

“Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they shut down ‘Russia Today,’” Russian Foreign Ministry’s Maria Zakharova told the state-run RIA, as reported by Reuters. “No one can go to a parliament of their country and say: I give Russia 24 hours.”

RT’s operating license is controlled by Ofcom, the broadcast regulator in the U.K., which is treating the matter with caution.

The agency said it has written to ANO TV Novosti, holder of RT’s UK broadcast licences, which is financed from the budget of the Russian Federation. It said the letter explained that, should the UK investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the UK, it would consider this relevant to its ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper.

The letter to RT said that Ofcom would carry out “our independent fit and proper assessment” on an expedited basis, and would write to RT again shortly setting out details of its process.

RT, in a statement, said its programing continues to adhere to all established standards and is simply a pawn in a war of words between Russia and the U.K.

“By linking RT to unrelated matters, Ofcom is conflating its role as a broadcasting regulator with matters of state,” RT said.