Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced Saturday that it had made Hollywood actor and action movie star Steven Seagal its special representative for Russian-U.S. humanitarian ties, Reuters news agency reports.
The actor is now in charge of deepening art, cultural, and youth ties between the two countries. As Reuters notes, U.S.-Russia relations have gotten worse over the past couple of years. U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Russia of meddling in American elections.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Seagal would receive no salary, and added that the actor’s appointment is “a case of people’s diplomacy intersecting with traditional diplomacy.”
The 66-year-old actor, who appeared in more than 60 movies, told Russia Today the following.
“I’ve always tried to do everything possible to help Russian-American relations to improve. I was working towards without having an official status and now it is a great honor for me to do the same officially.”
According to the same outlet, the actor is known to be a long-time supporter of Russia, and he has visited the country on numerous ocassions. Seagal received Russian citizenship in 2016. The actor is now, as the Russian Foreign Ministry put it, meant to “contribute to the further development of Russian-American relations in the humanitarian sphere, including interactions in the fields of culture, art, public and youth exchanges, among other things.”
As The Guardian noted in November 2016, Putin personally handed Seagal his Russian passport, congratulated the actor, and hailed the manouver as the beginning of normalization of the relations between Russia and the United States. Seagal’s familiy is originally from Russia, but other celebrities have been granted Russian citizenship for various reasons. For instance, veteran French actor Gérard Depardieu was given a Russian passport in 2013, after becoming a tax exile.
According to Reuters, Seagal’s movies – Under Siege and Sniper: Special Ops, in particular – are popular with Russian audiences. Vladimir Putin is also a fan of the kind of martial arts Seagal typically practices in his famous action films.
The adimiration appears to be mutual. As The Guardian noted, Seagal called Putin “one of the great living world leaders” and even performed with his blues band in Crimea.
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Apart from having been granted Russian citizenship, Seagal has been granted Serbian citizenship. As Newsweek reported, after getting his Serbian citizenship, the actor vowed to bring business and Hollywood to the Balkan country.
It seems no coincidence that Seagal has both Russian and Serbian citizenship. Serbia, which is looking to join the European Union, has refused to sever its ties with Russia. More recently, as Bloomberg reported, Serbia refused to join Europe’s sanctions on Moscow earlier this year.