Vladimir Putin's decision to annexe the Crimean peninsula may be opposed by the combined political might of Europe and the USA, but one man stands ready to defend the Russian president.
Action hero Steven Seagal, who considers Putin a personal friend, has labelled the former KGB lieutenant colonel "one of the greatest world leaders" and declared his actions in the Russian-majority Ukrainian province "very reasonable".
Speaking to the state-run newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta, in comments first noted by the Moscow Times, Seagal described western policy on Ukraine as "idiotic". He said Putin's desire "to protect the Russian-speaking people of Crimea, his assets, and the Russian Black Sea military base in Sevastopol … [was] very reasonable".
The 61-year-old actor and martial artist, who is currently filming an action movie in Romania, also said that media coverage of US opposition to Putin's actions was designed to promote the agenda of President Barack Obama. Seagal, who has appeared on the state-owned TV station Russia Today as an expert commentator on the standoff in Ukraine, was in turn tipped for a future political career in the US by Rossiskaya Gazeta. The newspaper bizarrely described him as on a par in terms of fame and authority with two former Hollywood heroes turned political titans, Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Seagal, a Republican who has mentioned an interest in running for office in the past, also said that he would consider following in the footsteps of French actor Gérard Depardieu by taking Russian citizenship.
Seagal and Putin are said to have bonded over a shared interest in martial arts. The actor, who recently helped Russia's government relaunch a nationwide fitness programme which had been dormant since the Soviet era, said he considered the president as "a brother".
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