Russian president Vladimir Putin has handed action movie star Steve Seagal a Russian passport at a special ceremony held at the Kremlin. Mr Putin said he was making the gesture in a bid to “normalise” the relationship between America and Russia.
Mr Seagal, 64, and Mr Putin have developed a close friendship over the last few years, with the actor having been invited to visit the president on a number of occasions over the last decade.
Speaking during the ceremony, Mr Putin said: “I want to congratulate you and express the hope that this is another, albeit small, gesture and it might be a sign of the gradual normalisation of relations between our countries.” Mr Seagal replied that everything was good, adding that he felt honoured.
Mr Putin, who is well-known as a fitness fanatic and martial arts fan, granted Russian citizensip to Seagal at the start of November. At the time a spokesperson for the Kremlin said the actor had asked “insistently” to be given citizenship.
The spokesperson added that Mr Seagal was “well known for his warm feelings towards our country and has never hidden them.” He follows in the footsteps of the French actor Gerard Depardieu was given citizenship by Mr Putin three years ago.
Mr Putin said he now hopes that growing numbers of Western celebrities who have been granted Russian citizenship will be seen as a “sign of gradual normalisation of the relations between our countries”
The bizarre news comes following threats to target Russian nuclear weapons on NATO countries if the alliance expanded its powers in Europe. Franz Klintsevich, who is a senator and leading member of the United Russia Party, said that it could be akin to the Cuban missile crisis.
However, while the Kremlin refused to condemn the comments, it did say that Mr Putin himself was the only one who could decide policy on who Russia targets.