Martial Arts Fan Vladimir Putin Grants Steven Seagal Russian Citizenship

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Russian President and martial arts enthusiast Vladimir Putin on Friday presented a Russian passport to actor Steven Seagal.

Putin granted the action star his Russian citizenship earlier this month but just formally signed off the passport and presented it to Seagal in a small televised ceremony making him a dual citizen of the United States and Russia.

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The 64-year-old actor has been a regular visitor to Russia having been somewhat close friends with the Russian leader.

It has been reported that Steven Seagal has been a long-time supporter of Putin, once calling him one of the greatest world leaders alive today.

Steven Seagal

Seagal’s acting journey started off in Japan where he was an aikido instructor. He then moved to Los Angeles where he became a Hollywood martial arts trainer.

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Steven Seagal then transitioned into acting soon afterward usually playing Russian characters making his movies very popular with Russian audiences.

”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 normalization of relations between our countries,” Putin said to Seagal.

Over the past few years, relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated. The armed conflicts in Ukraine and Syria have seen both superpowers clash for backing opposing sides.

Putin has expressed hope that relations would improve following the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president.

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Seagal is the latest Western celebrity to get a Russian passport in recent years.

In 2013, Gerard Depardieu, a French actor, was given citizenship by Putin after he renounced his native citizenship in a protest over high taxes.

American boxer Roy Jones Jr. also became a Russian citizen in 2015.