American actor Steven Seagal has been banned from entering Ukraine after being branded a ‘national security threat’.
The blacklisting follows on from publicity surrounding Seagal’s friendship with Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Apparently, they bonded over a shared love of martial arts. Seagal once referred to Putin as ‘one of the great living world leaders’.
The 65-year-old movie star made headlines last year when he was granted Russian citizenship and handed a passport by Putin himself. At the time, Putin told Seagal that he hoped their ‘personal relationship will remain and continue’. He also referred to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine as ‘very reasonable’.
French actor Gérard Depardieu, who starred in Going Places, The Man in the Iron Mask and Life of Pi, has also been blacklisted.
The ban is set to be in place for five years, according to a letter published by the news site Apostrophe. The country’s security service claimed he had ‘committed socially dangerous actions… that contradict the interests of maintaining Ukraine’s security’.
Press Secretary Elena Gitlyanskaya simply answered: “Yes, banned,” when asked by the press if he wasn’t allowed into the country.
In 2015, he and Depardieu were put forward in a proposed blacklist after being accused of speaking out ‘in support of violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine’.
Seagal’s grandmother was from Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.
According to the Guardian, Seagal’s relationship with Russia goes back a long way. He ate carrots in Belarus with ‘Europe’s last dictator’ Alexander Lukashenko, rode a horse at the Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan and visited the Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov.
He and his blues band also performed at a concert for pro-Russian separatists.
This comes after Russian singer Yulia Samoylova was informed that she will not be able to take part in the Eurovision song contest later this month. She too has been banned from Ukraine following her appearance in Crimea in 2015 – the peninsula was annexed by Russia the previous year.
Sources: Apostrophe & The Guardian