Famous People Who Are Banned From Russia

Banning people from entering a nation is one of the oldest tools in the handbook of geopolitical players. And it's such a popular tool in the exercise of what can may ironically call "belligerent diplomacy" because restricting a person's access to sovereign soil is relatively benign in the scheme of things. It's less aggressive of a move than freezing or seizing assets, it's much less fraught than military action, and it can be done in a highly targeted way: Each of those banned represents a specific grievance and makes a political statement, be their sanctioning related to economics, politics, culture, or another friction point.

Many nations have used bans on people from other countries from time to time — indeed the United States has a long list of people who are physically prohibited from entering American territory, not to mention a list of Specially Designated Nationals, or SDNs, that have their assets blocked and with whom American citizens are essentially prevented from associating with, per the U.S. Department of the Treasury. But few can match Russia when it comes to the person banning "game."

Just in 2022, Russia has banned the better part of 1,000 people from the U.S., per as released in the official list. Here are a few of them.

Ben Stiller

Actor Ben Stiller is chiefly known for his many beloved comedic roles in movies like "Meet the Parents," "Tropic Thunder," and "Night at the Museum," per IMDb. While Stiller has also appeared in a handful of decidedly serious roles, it was his interaction with another comedic actor — or former comedic actor, to be precise — that got him banned from Russia. That former actor is Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, and a man who has proved himself to be a bold and worthy adversary in the face of Russia's invasion of that sovereign nation.

Per Newsweek,, Ben Stiller has recently been permanently barred from Russia. This penalty comes following a June 2022 trip to Ukraine. Stiller was in Ukraine as a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and not only met with Ukraine's president but also with many other Ukrainian citizens affected by the war. In a video (cia CBS News), when meeting with Zelenskyy, Stiller told him, "You're my hero. What you've done and the way that you've rallied the country and for the world, it's really inspiring."

Senator Kyrsten Sinema

It's little wonder that Arizona's U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has been banned from entering Russia, as reported by KYMA, when you read the senator's own words about the Russian invasion of and support for Ukraine. In May 2022, Sinema released an official statement that read in part: "... bipartisan support in the Senate for increased financial, humanitarian, and military aid for Ukraine makes clear that the United States will not tolerate Russia's illegal and unprovoked war." She went on further to admonish Russia for its continued attacks on Ukraine and encouraged efforts in boosting security, cyber defense, and punishing Vladimir Putin financially.

That's full-throated support for Ukraine and an unequivocal shaming of Russia that calls out Vladimir Putin by name — and Putin takes things personally, having a hard time seeing himself as separate from the Russian state, per The New Yorker. Sinema's ban from Russian territory makes sense given her words and her work. 

Sean Penn

Veteran actor Sean Penn has been known to put himself in some pretty extreme roles on screen, such as in the films "I am Sam," "Dead Man Walking," and "Milk," per IMDb. But Penn is almost as well known for his work as an actor as he is for his off-screen exploits and activism, which are often easy to conflate. For example, Penn traveled to Mexico in 2015 to interview the notorious and violent drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, an trip that might have gotten Penn killed, as reported by the New York Post – and that did little to remedy the war on drugs.

When it comes to Russia and Ukraine, at least Penn's heart was in the right place, namely with Ukraine. Per Newsweek's reporting, Penn went to Ukraine to help make a documentary all about the illegal and devastating Russian invasion. During his time there, he met with Ukrainian officials and citizens and, at one point, said he was considering "taking up arms against Russia," per IndieWire. Ironically, Penn had been in Ukraine even prior to the Russian invasion — his film, made with Vice Studios, was intended to be about Ukrainian politics, but obviously history (or, in this case, Vladimir Putin), had other plans. 

Mark Zuckerberg

Remember the tagline from the movie "The Social Network" in which actor Jesse Eisenberg played Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (now Meta CEO, that is) in the origin story of the social media juggernaut? It was: "You Don't Get to 500 Million Friends Without Making a Few Enemies," per Time. In July 2022, per Data Reportal, Facebook has some 2.934 billion "friends" (meaning users), and it's more powerful than ever, which means potentially more influential than ever. And as we know from our own experiences here in America a couple of election cycles back, that can cut both ways.

Russia felt Facebook was cutting against them, and according to Bloomberg, the Kremlin banned Zuckerberg from Russia indefinitely. This was because Facebook had taken a step Russia found offensive when it began putting content-warning labels on posts related to Russia and the invasion (via AlJazeera) — labels that were well-merited because most of the posts in question were, in fact, not based on facts. When Zuck and Facebook refused to remove the labels and generally refuted Russian demands for moderation of much of the material being posted about the war in Ukraine, first Russia blocked its own people from accessing Facebook on the internet, calling the platform "extremist" (a label that they also applied to Instagram), as per Bloomberg, and then blocked Zuckerberg from entering Russia.

Senator Mark Kelly

Sen. Mark Kelly not only has the honor of being the other U.S. senator from Arizona alongside his fellow Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, but he also has the honor of also being banned from Russia, like she is. It's little wonder why Kelly, a former astronaut who has spent quite a bit of time soaring over Russia, has been banned from the Russian Federation's territory. Per AZ Central, Kelly has been absolutely outspoken in support of Ukraine and against Russia, saying, among other things, that Vladimir Putin is a "war criminal" because of his launching an assault against Ukraine. Perhaps it was Kelly's long naval career, which began before the end of the Cold War, that also helped inform his sentiments on Russia.

Kelly's work with the Armed Services Committee has brought together both political parties and military leaders to get supplies and weapons to Ukraine. He said, "If that earned me a sanction by the Kremlin, then that means we're doing something right." 

Morgan Freeman

Venerable actor, activist, and famously honey-voiced Morgan Freeman has notched myriad accomplishments in his long, storied life, including a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, a Best Actor Golden Globe, a SAG Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role award, and on it goes. Long story short, this is a man whose bucket list is probably not very long, given the fact that he has done it all.

Still, now Freeman can add to the list of achievements a ban from Russia. The circumstances of his ban are different from many others who have so recently made statements or taken actions that upset the Kremlin. For Freeman, according to Metro, the primary cause of his ban is not anything he has said about the current war but because of a promotional video he helped make several years ago. Per the BBC, Freeman lent his famed voice to narrate a public service announcement from the Committee to Investiage Russia about the country's involvement with and meddling in the 2016 presidential election that saw Hillary Clinton narrowly lose to Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton

Throughout her life, Hillary Clinton has been known as many things. She has been a first lady, a United States senator, the secretary of state, an activist, a lawyer, a wife, a mother, a lightning rod for some, a beacon of hope to others and, as she has shown time and time again, possessing a sharp wit, too. This was on full display when Clinton replied to news of her ban from Russia with a post on Twitter from mid-March of 2022 that read: "I want to thank the Russian Academy for this Lifetime Achievement Award." In just 12 short words, she made a mockery of the Kremlin and doubled down on her support for the nation and people of Ukraine.

Clinton's ban came as many other prominent Americans were barred back in March, as per NPR, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine was still in its early days, and it looked like Russian troops were winning. In an official statement as the bans went into place, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in part: "This step, taken as a response measure, is the inevitable result of the extreme Russophobic policy of the current U.S. Administration, which, in a desperate attempt to maintain American hegemony, has abandoned any sense of decorum and placed its bets on the head-on containment of Russia." Never mind the fact that Hillary Clinton was in no way involved with said "current U.S. Administration."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken

When you think about it, there are really only three or four human beings whom Russia would want to encourage to enter the territory of the Russian Federation more than Secretary of State Antony Blinken if the Kremlin had any actual desire for a swift end to the conflict it has fomented in Ukraine. Direct talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would certainly be a logical move toward ending the war, as would an in-person meeting with Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba. Aside from those two men, a direct meeting between Vladimir Putin and President Joe Biden might help end the war, but a more logical person to be present in such a meeting would be Blinken.

Maybe Russia doesn't actually want a swift, peaceful end to their war? It doesn't seem that way, because Blinken has been banned, per CBS News. The outlet reports the sanction of Blinken and others in March 2022 came on the heels of the Biden Administration hitting Putin and other Russian government officials with stiff economic penalties, as well as banning oil and gas imports. "We are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil," said Blinken (via Politico). 

Lady Gaga

Always the impressive trendsetter, Lady Gaga was banned from Russia long before the 2022 crop. In fact, the performer has been banned from Russia for more than a decade now, per Daily News. And joining her in that ban are fellow performers Madonna and Selena Gomez. All three women were declared unwelcome in the Russian Federation for the same reason: They outspokenly supported LGBTQ rights. 

Per 2012 reporting from Reuters, Lady Gaga was warned against open support for gay rights while she was in St. Petersburg to perform —  she was told via word passed to her managers that she would face possible fines equaling $50,000 or even potential arrest if she openly spoke in support of the LGBTQ community and their rights while in Russia.

Not one to be cowed easily, during her show in St. Petersburg, per ABC News, Lady Gaga proudly said at one point: "Tonight, this is my house Russia. You can be gay in my house!" As no swift action was taken against the singer, and she left the country unmolested by authorities, Russian lawmakers later concocted a bogus charge against her, stating that she had technically violated the terms of her visa while in their country. As Gaga had entered Russia using what were technically tourist visas, there was no right to work, i.e. to perform, the officials said. This was used as the premise for a ban, though it was clear to all that it was a sham of a reason.

Prime Minister Liz Truss

The prime minister of the United Kingdom, Liz Truss, whose appointment to the role was one of the last actions of the late Queen Elizabeth II in 2022, started off her turn without much love from Russia. Even months before she took over as the prime minister following the often contentious time her predecessor Boris Johnson spent in the role, Truss was banned from the Russian Federation, per The Guardian. So too was Johnson himself banned. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it banned Johnson, Truss, and several other prominent U.K. politicians due to hostility from the U.K. government. They blamed "London's unbridled information and political campaign aimed at isolating Russia internationally, creating conditions for containing our country and strangling the domestic economy."

The Kremlin was trying to blame the U.K. for being opposed to the illegal war they had started with Ukraine. In proper fashion, a United Kingdom government spokesman shot back, saying, "The UK and our international partners stand united in condemning the Russian government's reprehensible actions in Ukraine and calling for the Kremlin to stop the war. We remain resolute in our support for Ukraine."

John McCain

After a long, respectable life that included a distinguished career as a naval aviator, over five years spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, a brief stint as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a very long time as U.S. senator, a run for high office, and a brave but losing battle against brain cancer, John McCain died at the age of 81 on August 25, 2018, per AZ Central. Evidently no one informed the Kremlin of this public figure's very well-documented death, because in 2022 McCain's name appeared on a list of Americans banned from entering Russia.

According to Business Insider, McCain had drawn the ire of Russia after becoming an outspoken critic of Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, not to mention its occupation of land at the east of Ukraine that is currently a flashpoint for combat. The fact that he had died years before the ban was not mentioned anywhere, so it's not clear if his inclusion was an outright error or some sort of political statement. And though he is indeed deceased, McCain deserves some credit for his foresight; back in 2014, during an NPR interview granted in light of then recent Russian action, he said of Russia, "I think we have to change our whole relationship with Vladimir Putin instead of one of reset ... realizing he is what he is, a KGB colonel that is committed to the restoration of the Russian empire."

Vice President Kamala Harris

While it was very unlikely that Vice President Kamala Harris was going to plan a trip to Russia any time in the near future, last spring the Kremlin made sure her travel plans would not include any of its sovereign soil. Per NBC News, in April 2022, Harris was included on a list of about two dozen other Americans who would all subsequently be banned from Russia. A Kremlin statement said the specific bans enacted in mid-April were due to "ever-expanding anti-Russian sanctions" that the Biden Administration had put in place. 

During a visit to Poland a month earlier, Harris expressed an interest in seeing Russia investigated for war crimes against Ukraine, as per the Wall Street Journal. She also furthered the stance that Russia needed to be severely punished for its actions. 

President Joe Biden

Perhaps it's little surprise that the leader of the de facto No. 1 nemesis of the Russian Federation, namely the United States of America, has been banned from entering Russia. According to CNBC, President Joe Biden was at the top of the list of Americans banned. Also added to the list was Biden's son, Hunter Biden, along with many members of the Biden White House and other lawmakers. Prominently not placed on any list banning Americans from entering Russian territory is ex-president Donald Trump, which is hardly a surprise given that man's long and complicated history with Russia and his relationship with Vladimir Putin personally. 

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement, "Russian counter-sanctions are of a forced nature and are aimed at forcing the ruling American regime to change its behavior." Speaking on behalf of the White House, then-press secretary Jen Psaki discounted the sanction as being nothing to worry about due to Biden and others having no ties to Russia, like planned trips or banking accounts. "We will forge ahead," she said (via NPR).