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You might know Steven Seagal as the actor who does martial arts as he saves the world, often in direct-to-video action movies such as Kill Switch and Contract to Kill. However, some people in the Ukraine might know the American film actor as a threat to national security. In fact, the country recently announced it has banned Seagal from entering Ukraine for five years. Reportedly, the country's concerns refer directly to Seagal's support of Russia, which has supported a separatist movement in an ongoing conflict in the eastern region of Ukraine.
Steven Seagal has voiced his love for Russia for years. For example, during Seagal's visit to Chechnya some years ago, the actor tried to perform the lezginka, a Russian dance, and later he called it his favorite dance in the world. Seagal's appreciation for Russia makes sense because he has Russian heritage; his grandparents on his father's side emigrated from Russia to the United States. However, according to a Ukrainian service statement published by The Guardian, the grounds for banishing Seagal from Ukraine were "socially dangerous actions" the 65-year-old actor took to "contradict the interests of maintaining Ukraine's security." The statement appears to refer to Seagal's cultivation of a friendship with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, whom Seagal once indicated is the world's greatest leader.
In fact, Steven Seagal once declared he considered Vladimir Putin a brother, and Putin also suggested Seagal become a special envoy to the United States for Russia. However, Seagal's chumminess with Putin seems to be one one of the concerns Ukraine has. During the presidency of Barack Obama, Steven Seagal often criticized the foreign policies of the United States while praising the actions of Russia. For example, back in 2014, Seagal showed support for Putin by performing with his blues band at a rally that a Russian motorcyclists club, the Night Wolves. The performance took place in Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed in 2014 after the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine. For that performance, the flag of the separatist movement from eastern Ukraine flew behind Steven Seagal on the stage.
Around the time of Steven Seagal's performance, there were reports the actor called Russia's annexation of Crimea "very reasonable." The performance and statement led to the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture listing Seagal as persona non grata, someone not allowed to enter the country. Meanwhile, his relationship with Russia continued to flourish, and in November of last year, Seagal received Russian citizenship. In fact, Vladimir Putin presented Seagal with a Russian passport in an honorary ceremony at the Kremlin.
Now Steven Seagal joins a growing list of familiar people, such as French actor Gérard Depardieu, who cannot enter Ukraine on the grounds of national security. Like Seagal, Depardieu also received Russian citizenship back in 2013. We'll have to wait and see if this is the last we here about the matter. In the meantime, Seagal is certainly not alone in being banned from the country.