How to watch 'On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace' online: live stream six-part documentary from anywhere

Two Greenpeace activists look sombre aboard the charity's vessel in a scene from TV documentary series On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace
(Image credit: BBC)

“On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace” is a gripping new series that details how a group of climate activists were arrested and incarcerated in a brutal Russian prison after protesting on a Russian oil rig in 2013. 

Our guide below explains how to watch “On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace” online and for free in the U.K.. Traveling abroad? You can stream iPlayer from anywhere with a VPN.

Stream ‘On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace’ online: channel, streams

U.K. date and time: “On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace” will premiere on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer on Sunday, June 9.
 FREE —  BBC iPlayer (U.K.)
 Watch anywhere — Try NordVPN 100% risk free

A new six-part documentary series created by the BBC, “On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace” tells the fascinating story of how a Greenpeace ship sailed towards a Russian oil rig that was about to extract the world’s first offshore Arctic oil. 

Hoping to film a protest, a group of activists come face-to-face with Russian security services and are arrested on piracy and terrorism charges as Vladimir Putin flexed his muscles against the West. 

Each 29 minute episode draws on a wealth of unseen footage, cinematic reconstructions and interviews with those on board. We hear from the jailed protestors and Russians close to the event. 

Sir Paul McCartney, who helped secure the release of 30 protestors facing up to 15 years in prison on charges of piracy, does not feature in new film. There were (erroneous) reports it was down to security fears; in fact, Sir Paul was just busy touring.

Read on below for everything you need to know about how to watch “On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace” online and potentially for free.

FREE 'On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace' stream

Sunday, June 9

U.K. viewers can watch “On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace” from Sunday, June 9, live on BBC Two or on BBC iPlayer. Episode 1 will air at 9 p.m. on BBC Two and the season will consist of six episodes, with one airing each week. 

If you don’t have linear TV, you can watch every episode free on BBC iPlayer, live, or on-demand shortly after they’re broadcast. Be aware, however, that you need a valid TV license to live stream the show.

Not at home in the U.K. when “On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace” airs on the BBC? Don't worry — as we explain below, you can watch it live or on-demand when you download a VPN to watch iPlayer when abroad.

Watch BBC iPlayer when abroad

Away from home at the moment and blocked from watching "On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace" on your preferred home streaming service?

You can still connect to the likes of BBC iPlayer from anywhere, thanks to the wonders of a VPN (Virtual Private Network). The software allows your devices to appear to be back in your home country regardless of where in the world you are. So ideal for viewers away on vacation or on business. Our favorite is NordVPN. It's the best on the market:


There's a good reason you've heard of NordVPN. We specialize in testing and reviewing VPN services and NordVPN is the one we rate best. It's outstanding at unblocking streaming services, it's fast and it has top-level security features too. With over 5,000 servers, across 60 countries, and at a great price too, it's easy to recommend.

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Using a VPN is incredibly simple.

1. Install the VPN of your choice. As we've said, NordVPN is our favorite.

2. Choose the location you wish to connect to in the VPN app. For instance if you're in the U.S. and want to view your usual U.K. service, you'd select U.K. from the list.

3. Sit back and enjoy the show. Head to BBC iPlayer and stream "On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace" free online.

Can I watch "On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace" online in U.S., Australia or elsewhere?

As yet there are no concrete plans to air Curve Media’s "On Thin Ice: Putin V Greenpeace" around the world. For now, the box-set series is exclusive to the U.K..

However, if you are a Brit abroad you can use NordVPN to unblock your usual, free, iPlayer account and watch it from anywhere. Details just above. VPN's are a great bit of kit, and easy to use.    

"On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace" full episode guide

"On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace" – Episode 1 (29 mins)
In 2013, Greenpeace sail to the Arctic to peacefully protest against Russian offshore oil drilling, but the harsh response from Putin’s Kremlin and the Russian security forces is far more than they bargained for as their actions at the oil rig are met with brutal force.

"On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace" – Episode 2 (29 mins)
As the activists continue to climb the rig, things begin to turn ugly as two climbers are captured by the Russian coastguard. Armed officers with balaclavas and Kalashnikovs start to board the ship - could it be the antiterrorism squad?

The activists try to keep filming, but the Russian security forces manage to take over the ship. Shots are fired.

"On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace" – Episode 3 (29 mins)
September 2013. The Arctic Sunrise has been boarded, the activists are held at gunpoint, and the FSB have seized control of the ship.

The captured activists expect a 48-hour detention, but after being taken to a detention centre in Murmansk, they are charged with piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.

"On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace" – Episode 4 (29 mins)
The arrested activists arrive in Murmansk prison, having been sentenced to two months of pre-trial detention. They describe the threatening, degrading experience of the incarceration. A global campaign is launched from London to try to free the activists, but it faces a Kremlin smear campaign. In Murmansk, one of the prisoners is rushed to hospital.

"On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace" – Episode 5 (29 mins)
The team need to keep the protesters in the news. After finding out they can secretly get letters in and out of prison, they try to smuggle out an SD card containing footage of the 2013 illegal boarding. Meanwhile, Greenpeace appeal for the Arctic 30 to be released on bail - their best hope of getting them out.

"On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace" – Episode 6 (29 mins)
The media campaign reaches across the world, but they’re not getting press in Russia. They manage to persuade Sir Paul McCartney to write Putin a letter asking for the release of the Arctic 30. Finally, they get widespread coverage of the Arctic 30 story throughout Russia.

The piracy charges against the Arctic 30 are replaced with hooliganism, giving Greenpeace an opportunity to appeal for bail again. After the judge retires in court to receive a phone call, the activists are given bail.

As the 2014 Sochi Olympics approach, Putin declares an amnesty, releasing 25,000 people from prison, including Pussy Riot, and dropping the Arctic 30 charges so they can finally return home. But things go rapidly downhill for Russia.

Who made "On Thin Ice: Putin v Greenpeace" doc?

The series was commissioned by Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual at the BBC. It is executive produced by Sunshine Jackson, co-series directed by Chloe Campbell ("Murder in the Pacific") and Alice McMahon-Major ("Three Mothers, Two Babies and a Scandal") and produced by Clare Beavis.

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Adrian Back

Adrian is a freelance journalist and copywriter based in the UK. He’s written about sport for a wide range of publications including World Soccer Magazine, Newsweek, Yahoo and FourFourTwo. Having covered everything from the NBA Finals and French Open to the London Olympics and F1 in Abu Dhabi, his great passion remains soccer – a sport he could write and talk about all day long.