On Tuesday, Oct. 25, Frontline (PBS) and The Associated Press will go inside Russia’s war on Ukraine with the premiere of 'Putin’s Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes.'
From award-winning director Tom Jennings, producer Annie Wong, AP global investigative reporter Erika Kinetz and her AP colleagues, the joint documentary traces a pattern of atrocities committed by Russian troops in Ukraine, focusing on the Kyiv suburbs, such as Bucha, where some of the most shocking carnage was found.
'Putin’s Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes' draws on exclusive original footage, interviews with Ukrainian citizens and prosecutors, top government officials and international war crimes experts, as well as a vast amount of previously unpublished evidence obtained and verified by the AP – including hundreds of hours of surveillance camera videos and thousands of audio recordings of intercepted phone calls made by Russian soldiers around Kyiv.
The documentary also includes detailed forensic analysis and a 3-D model to help see the scope of the killings in Bucha, created with the visual investigations practice SITU Research.
Meticulously following the trail of accountability, 'Putin’s Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes' shows how Russian soldiers carried out “cleansing operations” - zachistka, in Russian - sweeping neighborhoods as part of a strategy that went far beyond Bucha and was conceived and implemented within the command structures of the Russian military.
Frontline and the AP uncover exclusive and harrowing evidence that links possible war crimes in Bucha through the chain of command to one of Russia’s top generals — evidence that prosecutors hope might help build a case against Russian President Vladimir Putin in court.
But the joint investigation also explores the difficulties of prosecuting war crimes. Examining the war in Ukraine through the lens of the history of war crimes laws and different global conflicts, 'Putin’s Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes' exposes the challenges of trying to hold Putin and other Russian leaders to account.
'Putin’s Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes' is part of a larger editorial collaboration between Frontline and AP examining Russia’s war in Ukraine. The work also includes “War Crimes Watch Ukraine,” a multi-platform initiative that has gathered, verified, and comprehensively cataloged potential war crimes committed in Ukraine; co-published stories and videos; and '20 Days in Mariupol,' a documentary from AP video journalist Mstyslav Chernov slated to premiere on PBS and online in 2023.
“We started this project simply to bear witness to the atrocities happening in Ukraine because it was hard to believe what we were seeing from our reporters, photographers and on social media,” said Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak, AP’s acting global investigations editor. “But it’s now grown to encompass the question of whether there can be real justice in the wake of such horror and suffering.”
"We hope our collaborative reporting efforts with the AP can expose the true toll of this brutal war and preserve this moment in history. By verifying and documenting these possible war crimes, we aim to hold those in power accountable for the horrors unfolding in Ukraine,” said Raney Aronson-Rath, editor-in-chief and executive producer of Frontline.
Against the backdrop of a war that shows no signs of ceasing, 'Putin’s Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes' offers a window into the lives of Ukrainians living under siege, capturing the devastation of this war and the pursuit for accountability.
'Putin’s Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes' will be available to watch in full at pbs.org/frontline and in the PBS Video App starting Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, at 7 p.m. ET. It will premiere on PBS stations (check local listings) and on Frontline’s YouTube channel at 10 p.m. ET. 'Putin’s Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes' is distributed internationally by PBS International. Subscribe to Frontline’s newsletter to get updates on events, podcast episodes and more related to 'Putin’s Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes'.