The Truth About Steven Seagal's Friendship With Vladimir Putin

Steven Seagal learned the martial arts skills that made him a world-famous action film star in the late 1980s and early 1990s straight from the source. After dropping out of college in the early 1970s, the "Under Siege" star packed up his belongings and moved to Japan, where he specialized in aikido, as People reported in 1990. Even in the early days, Seagal boasted about having worked for the CIA, per People, statements that added to Seagal's cryptic persona. Since then, the list of behaviors that make Seagal controversial has grown almost as long — if not longer — than that of the feats that made him famous.

Starting in the 1990s, Seagal was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, including Jenny McCarthy, Global News noted. But he really made headlines in the wake of the #MeToo movement, when the list of accusations and accusers grew to include fellow actors Portia de RossiEva LaRue, and Julianna Margulies.

His shady behavior was once again thrust into the spotlight when his name was linked to a cryptocurrency fraud scheme. In February 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Seagal for his role in promoting the fraudulent investment scheme, CNBC reported. Seagal settled the SEC charges, the report detailed. Moreover, Seagal has also become known as one of the staunchest American supporters of the Russian regime and a great admirer of its leader, the equally controversial Vladimir Putin. 

Vladimir Putin isn't as vocal about his friendship with Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal does not mince words when it comes to sharing his admiration for Vladimir Putin. "I would like to think I know him well, but suffice it to say I know him well enough to say that he is one of the greatest world leaders, if not the greatest world leader, alive today," he said in 2013 (via BuzzFeed News). Seagal has also reportedly said that he "would like to consider him as a brother," according to The Moscow Times. American producer Bob Van Ronkel claims he introduced the two. "I was hired to bring Steven Seagal to perform with his band for another event with President Putin, so kind of was responsible for that introduction, and Steven becoming best friends with him," Van Ronkel told NPR.

Putin has been less upfront about his true feelings for Seagal, with his press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, downplaying the bond between the president and the actor. "It's a totally normal friendship. I wouldn't necessarily say he's a huge fan, but he's definitely seen some of his movies," Peskov told BuzzFeed News in 2015.

Still, Putin has to have some degree of admiration for Seagal, considering he reportedly suggested to then-President Barack Obama that Seagal be made an "honorary consul of Russia" to help improve relations between the two countries, BuzzFeed News reported. In 2018, the Embassy of Russia in the U.S.A. announced that Seagal had been appointed as special envoy to the U.S.

Steven Seagal is a Russian citizen

In 2016, Steven Seagal became a Russian citizen thanks to Vladimir Putin. As NPR reported, the Russian president made Seagal's wish to be granted citizenship a reality in early November of that year by issuing a presidential decree. According to The New York Times, Putin himself handed the red-colored passport to Seagal in a ceremony held later that month. 

"I would like to congratulate you, and I also hope that this small step will mark the beginning of the gradual improvement in our interstate relations," Putin said to Seagal, per the Times. The meeting took place just days after Donald Trump, the candidate favored by Putin, as Politico noted then, won the 2016 U.S. election, though Putin said the move wasn't politically motivated. "We have agreed from the very beginning that we won't politicize this matter," Putin said, according to Russia's state-affiliated news agency TASS

According to the Times, Seagal had previously said he wanted to become a Russian citizen because of his ancestry. Speaking on a Russian talk show in December 2016 (via The Siberian Times), Seagal discussed the results of a DNA test he took, explaining that his paternal family ties stretch to different parts of the country and neighboring region. "My father comes from Vladivostok," he said, referring to the Russian port city on the Pacific side. "We have family from Siberia, we have family from Belarus, family from, apparently, St. Petersburg."