The Kremlin announced Thursday that it was awarding Russian citizenship to action-movie star Steven Seagal.
Seagal, 64, already has several Russian visa stamps in his passport from his visits to the country, where he’s accompanied Vladimir Putin to martial-arts events. The Russian president, who’s two years his junior, has been a practitioner of judo since he was a teenager and has even written a book on the subject.
The Under Siege star, who identifies as Republican and has called for the impeachment of President Obama, has vocally praised Putin, calling him “one of the greatest world leaders” and defending Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
In March of that year, he told the state-owned newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta that western policy on Crimea was “idiotic” and characterized the takeover as Putin acting to “protect the Russian-speaking people of Crimea, his assets, and the Russian Black Sea military base in Sevastopol.”
If Seagal were to accept Russian citizenship, he wouldn’t be hurting for expatriate company: French actor Gérard Depardieu went into tax exile there in 2013 and American boxer Roy Jones Jr. made a personal request to Putin for dual citizenship in 2015 in order to ease his frequent business trips there — and got it.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Seagal “has been insistent for a long time in asking to be granted Russian citizenship,” adding that “he is known for his warm feelings to our country. He never made a secret of it, and he’s also a well-known actor, which gave grounds to make him a Russian citizen.”
Seagal, who tweeted last month that he was spending most of October there, has yet to comment on his social media accounts and his representatives did not immediately respond to USA TODAY about whether he plans to accept or if he’ll claim dual Russian-American citizenship, which could force him to pay taxes to both countries.
Or possibly three countries, in Seagal’s case since he was also granted Serbian citizenship in January after offering to establish a martial-arts school in that country’s capital of Belgrade.
But on the upside, he might also be eligible to collect a pension in Russia: a cool 5,000 rubles ($78), notes AP Moscow correspondent Nataliya Vasilyeva.
Contribution from Associated Press.