Russia's President Vladimir Putin issued a presidential decree Thursday that grants Russian citizenship to action-movie star Steven Seagal, fulfilling a desire that Seagal spoke about as recently as September. Putin and Seagal are longtime friends.
Putin and Seagal share a passion for martial arts: Seagal is an expert in aikido, and Putin is an expert in judo. They've appeared together at martial arts demonstrations and official events, including last year's Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.
In recent years, Seagal has emerged as an unlikely conduit between U.S. and Russian officials. Back in 2013, members of a U.S. congressional delegation said Seagal "opened some doors" for them as they researched anti-terrorism issues — and it later emerged that in the same year, Putin suggested making Seagal an honorary consul in California and Arizona, a position that could have allowed him to work as a go-between for Putin and President Obama.
Today, Sputnik News quotes Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying of Seagal:
"This [was his] desire, he had really applied. He had been really persistent for a long time and been asking to grant him citizenship, he is actually renown for his quite warm feelings toward our country."
Seagal isn't the first Western celebrity to cozy up to Russia.
"Seagal follows other Western celebrities with an affinity for Putin's machismo in receiving Russian citizenship," The Moscow Times reports, "such as fighter Roy Jones Jr. and French actor Gerard Depardieu."
If all this is too much to wrap your head around, it might help to see the language of the decree itself, at the Kremlin website. It's a no-nonsense decree, naming Seagal and listing his date of birth (April 10, 1952) and bestowing citizenship in the Russian Federation upon him.