Sunday, June 16, 2013

NEWS: Vladimir Putin's Man Crush on Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal & Russian President Vladimir Putin / Photo credit:

What is it about Steven Seagal that has 'celebrities' flocking to him? A while back MMA fighters Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida and now Russian President Vladimir Putin? This story came across my Bloomberg news feeds:

(BSW) Vladimir Putin's Man Crush on Steven Seagal
Vladimir Putin's Man Crush on Steven Seagal
2013-06-14 00:21:37.813 GMT
The action star has a new career as the Russian leader's friend
By Claire Suddath

     June 14 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek) -- When six members of
Congress went on a fact-finding trip to Russia in May to learn
more about the brothers accused of the Boston Marathon bombings,
they sought the help of a close friend of Russian President
Vladimir Putin: Steven Seagal. The aging star of bone-snapping
action films such as Hard to Kill and Under Siege took the
lawmakers around and arranged meetings with Russian security
officials. “Seagal opened some doors,” Representative Dana
Rohrabacher, the California Republican who led the delegation,
said on CNN. “We got to meet top people.”

     Wait—Steven Seagal? As it turns out, Seagal and Putin pal
around quite a bit. The actor has dined with the Russian leader,
gone with him to sporting events, and attended state functions.
The two “have long been friends and regularly meet each other,”
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Russian Itar-Tass News
Agency in March. More recently, Seagal has cultivated a side gig
as an informal go-between for Moscow and Washington. The
state-owned RIA Novosti news service reported Deputy Prime
Minister Dmitry Rogozin asked Seagal to press lawmakers on
Capitol Hill to remove barriers to the sale of Russian-made guns
in the U.S. “Bizarre is the word that comes to mind,” Clifford
Gaddy, an economist at the Brookings Institution who focuses on
Russia, said in an e-mail.

     In Russia, C-list action stars are adored without irony, and
Putin and Seagal seem to have bonded over, among other tough-guy
traits, a shared affinity for martial arts. Putin is skilled in
judo—a fact he shows off in a 2008 DVD, Let’s Learn Judo With
Vladimir Putin —and has invited Seagal, a former aikido
instructor, to attend martial arts matches and the opening of a
school that teaches Sambo, a form of fighting developed by the
Red Army in the 1920s. The action star smiled and waved and made
Putin look cool by association.

     For Putin, using celebrities “has been a primary part of his
politics,” says Nina Khrushcheva, who teaches international
affairs at the New School in New York. “It’s partly a Soviet-era
practice,” she adds, noting that Joseph Stalin befriended famous
Western intellectuals. H.G. Wells spent time with Stalin,
reporting later that he found the brutal dictator “candid, fair,
and honest.” George Bernard Shaw and Lady Astor visited Moscow in
1931, enjoying a lavish dinner with the leader amid a
state-imposed famine. Shaw said he only saw “hopeful and
enthusiastic” citizens. Lady Astor was not as compliant. “How
long will you go on killing people?” she asked Stalin, according
to David Remnick’s book Lenin’s Tomb . “As long as necessary,”
Stalin replied.

     Cozying up to authoritarian leaders can be a tricky business
for celebrities, some of whom don’t seem to bother to do a quick
Google search before saying yes to an invitation. In 2011, Hilary
Swank apologized on The Tonight Show for attending the birthday
party of Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally who’s
been accused by human-rights groups of kidnapping, torture, and
murder in his efforts to suppress Chechen separatists and Islamic
insurgents. Kadyrov denies the claims. Swank promised to give
away the six-figure fee she reportedly was paid to attend the
event. On the other hand, French actor Gérard Depardieu, another
friend of Putin’s, did not apologize for shouting “Glory to
Kadyrov!” at the next year’s birthday bash. In January, Depardieu
officially moved to Russia to avoid paying French taxes; Putin
greeted him with bear hugs. The actor was given a Russian
passport, an apartment, and two kittens. He’s since fallen in
line with Putin’s politics, denouncing the Russian feminist punk
band Pussy Riot and continuing to praise Kadyrov.

     Seagal has also defended Kadyrov. In May he traveled to
Chechnya to meet with the strongman and offered to arrange an
introduction for the members of Congress. They declined. Seagal
didn’t respond to interview requests, so it’s unclear what he
sees in Kadyrov. “All these accusations are thrown around” about
the Chechen leader, Seagal told reporters at a news conference
during the congressional trip. “Is there any evidence? Has he
been indicted?”
-0- Jun/14/2013 00:21 GMT

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