Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday has signed a decree bestowing the Order of Friendship award on Steven Seagal, the Hollywood actor and martial artist who also holds Russian citizenship.
Seagal, known for his appearances in various action films over the last three decades, was awarded the Order of Friendship, according to an announcement on the Russian government’s news agency.
The order recognizes people who Russia considers to have contributed to bettering international relations. Naming Seagal as its latest recipient, the decree said it was given as a reward for his international humanitarian and cultural work.
Seagal was a vocal supporter of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and last year visited the Russian-held Ukrainian town of Olenivka where dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war were reportedly killed in an attack for which Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other.
In 2017, Ukraine banned Seagal from entering the country for five years, citing national security concerns.
Seagal was named in 2018 as a Russian Foreign Ministry humanitarian envoy to the United States and Japan.
“Steven Seagal was appointed as the Russian Foreign Ministry’s special representative for Russian-US humanitarian ties,” the embassy said in a Facebook post announcing the appointment. “The task is to facilitate relations between Russia and the United States in the humanitarian field, including cooperation in culture, arts, public and youth exchanges, and so on.”
Seagal visited Russia frequently for years before winning citizenship. A reported friend of the Russian president, Seagal accompanied Putin to several martial arts events during those visits. In November 2016, Putin granted Seagal a Russian passport.
Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for Putin, told reporters at the time 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.”