Moscow – US action film star and martial artist Steven Seagal has received Russian citizenship upon a decree by President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said Thursday.
Seagal, who has starred in such Hollywood blockbusters as “Hard to Kill” and “Under Siege,” is a seventh-degree black belt in aikido and a reputed friend of Putin, sharing a passion for martial arts.
Seagal, 64, has publicly supported Russia’s annexation of neighbouring Ukraine’s Crimea region, an issue of strong contention between Russia and the West.
Steven Seagal performs at the Sambo-70 martial arts center in Moscow on March 13, 2013. The US action film star and martial artist received Russian citizenship upon a decree by President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said Thursday. (Credit Image: © PhotoXpress/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Russia’s occupation and subsequent annexation of the peninsula two years ago, in response to Ukraine ousting its pro-Russian president, was met with outcry by Western governments and a series of sanctions against Russia.
Seagal told Russia’s newspaper of record, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, shortly after the annexation that it was “very reasonable” in order to protect the region’s Russian-speaking residents and secure a major Russian naval base there.
Seagal, who grew up in California, has claimed to have Russian and Mongolian ancestry.
He often visits Russia and said on a trip to the far eastern Russian region of Sakhalin in September that he would like to have Russian citizenship to spend more time with his Russian friends, the Interfax news agency reported.
Putin has also given citizenship to renowned French actor Gerard Depardieu and US former world champion boxer Roy Jones Jr, both of whom have support Russia’s annexation of Crimea.