US film star and pal of Vladimir Putin Steven Seagal plays concert in Crimea
Hollywood tough guy and musician Steven Seagal played a weekend concert in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, appearing on a stage adorned with the flag of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
Seagal, who is a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, played late on Saturday with his blues band at a bikers' show held in the city of Sevastopol, home to Russia's Black Sea fleet.
The martial artist has come under fire for supporting Russia's March annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine, a view which saw him bounced from the line-up at an Estonian blues festival this summer.
At the corner of the stage hung the black, blue and red flag of the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR), declared independent by pro-Russian rebels fighting to break away from Ukraine.
Fans waved Russian and DNR flags as Seagal sang and played his guitar.
The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and for allegedly providing weapons and support to the rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Seagal said he had travelled to Crimea because music united people, Russia's RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
In a March interview with a Russian newspaper, Seagal was quoted as saying that Putin's desire to protect Russians in Crimea was completely reasonable.
Crimea's largely Russian-speaking residents voted in March to become part of Russia in a referendum.
Seagal said in the newspaper interview that he considered Putin, with whom he had promoted martial arts in Russia, a friend and would like to consider him a brother.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov last year said the Russian president and the star of such films as Hard To Kill and Above The Law had been friends "for a long time" and regularly met.
Russian media also reported that Seagal put on a Putin T-shirt given to him by the concert's organiser.
In television footage broadcast on a channel owned by Russia's defence ministry, Seagal can be heard telling his hosts about his Russian ancestors.
In the March newspaper interview, Seagal said he did not rule out eventually seeking Russian citizenship in addition to his US citizenship.