Steven Seagal may be the lone person in the center of an interesting Venn diagram: he’s banned from both Saturday Night Live and the country of Ukraine. A terrible stint as host in 1990 explains the former, but why can’t he visit the country? The answer lies in his relationship with Vladimir Putin.
Closer Than Friends
Move over Kim Jong-Un and Dennis Rodman; there’s another perplexing authoritarian friendship in town. If you need a reminder, Seagal is an actor who got his start as an action star in the eighties and worked his way into many direct-to-DVD films. Succession star Brain Cox says “Steven Seagal is as ludicrous in real life as he appears on the screen.” His relationship with Putin makes this take sound just about right.
Seagal considers Putin to be more of a brother than a friend. The two share a passion for martial arts. Putin once held a black belt in taekwondo before it was stripped amid the ongoing assault on Ukraine. Seagal holds a black belt in aikido and became the first foreigner to run an aikido dojo in Japan.
Seagal has backed Putin to the hilt for years. He supported the 2014 annexation of Crimea and continues to support Putin’s decisions today. Seagal has toured many former Soviet territories in recent years, even being fed a carrot by the President of Belarus, and Putin’s bestie, Alexander Lukashenko.
In 2016, the Under Seige star received honorary citizenship from both Serbia and Russia. When Seagal received his Russian passport, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov cited Seagal’s “warm feelings towards Russia” and his status as a movie star. His close relationship with Russia naturally raised concerns from Ukraine.
The 2017 Ban
Following Seagal’s Russian citizenship, the Ukrainian security service forbade his entry to the country for five years. The ban was announced in May 2017, so it should technically be up in a few months. The service announced Seagal as a person who has “committed socially dangerous actions … that contradict the interests of maintaining Ukraine’s security.”
What Does He Think Now?
Unsurprisingly, Seagal has a lot to say about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. He told Fox News, “I look at both as one family and really believe it is an outside entity spending huge sums of money on propaganda to provoke the two countries to be at odds with each other.” This response seems to endorse Putin’s way of thinking.
“My prayers are that both countries will come to a positive, peaceful resolution where we can live & thrive together in peace,” Seagal said. It’s unclear what outside entity Seagal believes is driving the tanks into Ukraine, slaughtering innocent lives. Seagal’s bizarre relationship with Putin naturally means Ukraine doesn’t want him around.