Was Steven Seagal’s ‘bromance’ with Russia’s Putin behind Ukraine’s blacklist?
The 65-year-old actor has for years cultivated a friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, bonding over their love of martial arts and shared macho images
Steven Seagal, the American actor best known for his role in ‘90s action movies such as Hard to Kill and Under Siege, has been blacklisted from the Ukraine as a national security threat.
Seagal is banned from entering the country for five years on grounds he has “committed socially dangerous actions ... that contradict the interests of maintaining Ukraine’s security,” according to a Ukrainian security service letter published by the news site Apostrophe and reported by the Guardian.
The 65-year-old actor has for years cultivated a friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, bonding over their love of martial arts and shared macho images.
Though the Ukrainian security letter does not outline specific statements that got the actor banned, Seagal once participated in a pro-Putin motorcycle rally in Crimea, a disputed peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014 after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in a revolution.
In an interview then, Seagal defended Russia’s annexation of Crimea, saying that Putin’s “desire to protect the Russian-speaking people of Crimea, his assets, and the Russian Black Sea military base in Sevastopol . . . is very reasonable,” the Moscow Times reported.
Watch: Putin gives Russian passport to US actor Steven Seagal
Seagal’s Crimea comments made him persona non grata in another country, Estonia, where organisers of a 2014 music festival there canceled his set after backlash from the Estonian public.
“We hope that Estonian public will primarily view Seagal as an actor and musician,” said Raul Ukareda, programme director for the festival, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“But, as it turned out, everyone sees him only as a politician and Putin loyalist.”
During the Obama administration, Seagal often praised the Kremlin while criticising US foreign policy. In a 2013 interview with the Russian news channel RT, Seagal called Putin “one of the greatest world leaders, if not the greatest world leader alive today.”
The feeling seemed mutual. Putin would later propose that Seagal become an honorary Russian envoy to the United States.
In November, Putin granted Russian citizenship to Seagal, presenting him with a Russian passport in a formal ceremony.
Seagal, who openly supported Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential race, has appeared in numerous direct-to-video films since breaking out as an action star in the 1990s. He also starred in his own reality show on the Reelz Network, Steven Seagal: Lawman, in which showed him teaming up with law enforcement organisations in Louisiana and Arizona.
“I think our biggest problem is the open border,” Seagal told ABC15 News in a 2014 interview about the Arizona season of the show.
“I think this is a tremendous oversight by our current administration. As Ronald Reagan once said, if we don’t have security on our borders, we don’t have a country.”