Russia's Neighbors - Living in the Shadow of an Expansionist Nation

A three-week journey through former Soviet republics highlights the consequences for the region of Russian politics, both past and present.

A three-week journey through a number of former Soviet republics reveals the very different fates of these countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here our camera crew meets people for whom everyday life has been changed in a myriad of different ways by the war in Eastern Ukraine. And they all take a position - for or against Russia, for or against Putin. The divide has long since cut through countries, villages and even families. The journey takes us from Latvia through Belarus and Ukraine to Moldova and Transnistria, ending in Crimea.

The starting point for this journey is the Latvian port city of Liepaja, where the camera crew meets two fishermen who sail together everyday but who are of very different political mindsets. One is Latvian, the other Russian. Will their friendship last? In Belarus, the crew meets a family who send their children to special language classes so they can learn to speak Belorussian. This is because Russian has been the dominant language in the country since the Soviet era, which makes finding one's own independent national identity all the more difficult. In Kiev, we visit air-raid shelters that have been set up all around the city in fear of Russian rocket attacks. There is an app so that people can find the one nearest to them. The crew also visits a pro-Russian TV broadcaster who is being threatened with having its license revoked. From there, the journey continues on into the Republic of Moldova and the province of Transnistria, which is controlled by Russia and was carved out with an arbitrarily drawn border. As a result, villages, businesses and schools have been cut in two. We meet a farmer whose animals are in Moldova, while her land is in Transnistria. How does she cope on a day-to-day basis? In Crimea, where Russian laws and regulations now apply, the camera crew meets German expats, who fall between the two stools, politically speaking, and the last Ukrainian-Orthodox priest, for whom life has become very difficult. The Russian annexation of Crimea has also split the churches.