U.K.’s Channel 4 Orders Documentary on Poisoning of Former Russian Spy (EXCLUSIVE)Variety
Amid intensifying diplomatic fallout, Britain’s Channel 4 has ordered a fast-turnaround documentary on the poisoning in England earlier this month of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, a case that has roiled relations between London and Moscow. The program will be produced by ITN Productions and go out on on March 26.
Skripal is a former Russian intelligence officer who secretly worked for the British. He was convicted of spying by the Russians and imprisoned before being freed in a spy-swap program and settling in the U.K. He and his daughter, who was visiting from Moscow, were found poisoned with a nerve agent in the city of Salisbury on March 4. Both remain in critical condition.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has pointed the finger at Russia, saying that the deadly nerve agent used was produced there. A deadline she issued for answers from the Kremlin expired Tuesday night. On Wednesday, she announced that Britain was expelling 23 Russian diplomats, “who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers. They have just one week to leave.” May said it was the largest mass expulsion of foreign diplomats from Britain in 30 years.
“There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury,” May told the House of Commons, adding that Russia had treated the incident with “sarcasm, contempt and defiance.”
High-level contacts between London and Moscow have been suspended, and members of the British royal family will not travel to Russia when it hosts the World Cup soccer tournament this summer, May said.
President Trump has backed May, saying that the evidence suggested Russia was responsible and that the U.S. would “condemn Russia or whoever it may be” behind the poisoning.
Channel 4 commissioned the documentary on the Skripal incident just five days after the the poisoning took place. The one-off program will look at the attempted murder of Skripal, the unfolding news story and other deaths in Britain that have been linked to Russia and are now coming under fresh scrutiny. In 2006, former Russian security operative Alexander Litvinenko was fatally poisoned with polonium in Britain, a killing some say was at the direct behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Channel 4 News journalist Matt Frei will present the Skripal documentary, which was commissioned by Tom Porter at Channel 4. The executive producers for ITN Productions are George Waldrum and Andy Dunn.
The documentary is the latest out of the U.K. to look at Russia. BBC Two aired “Putin: The New Tsar” earlier in March, which looked at the life of the Russian leader. The show featured contributions from British politicians, including former Home Secretary Jack Straw, and was produced by Oxford Films. Drive is now selling it internationally.