Putin gives Steven Seagal Russian citizenship

Actor Steven Seagal (right) is the latest in a string of high-profile Westerners to be granted Russian citizenship after buddying up with President Vladimir Putin.
Actor Steven Seagal (right) is the latest in a string of high-profile Westerners to be granted Russian citizenship after buddying up with President Vladimir Putin.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

MOSCOW • President Vladimir Putin signed off on Thursday on a decree granting Russian citizenship to Hollywood action hero Steven Seagal.

Seagal and judo-loving Kremlin tough guy Putin have struck up a bromance in recent years, with the actor visiting Russia repeatedly and defending Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

"He was asking quite insistently and over a lengthy period to be granted citizenship," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists. "He is well known for his warm feelings towards our country and has never hidden them."

Seagal, 64, is the latest in a string of high-profile Westerners to be granted Russian citizenship after buddying up with Mr Putin.

French actor Gerard Depardieu was given a Russian passport in 2013 after he became a tax exile in ire over rate hikes in his native country. Mr Putin has also handed out citizenship to American boxer Roy Jones Jr after sipping tea with him in Crimea, and to American mixed-martial artist Jeff Monson.

Seagal is popular in eastern Europe and was granted Serbian citizenship in January. Like Depardieu, he has hung out with Mr Putin and other strongmen leaders from the former Soviet Union.

After Russia's annexation of Crimea, Seagal called Mr Putin "one of the great living world leaders" and even performed with his blues band in the annexed Black Sea peninsula. In August, veteran Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko made Seagal eat one of his home-grown carrots in an awkward encounter that drew mockery online.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'Putin gives Seagal Russian citizenship'. Print Edition | Subscribe