The Reason Steven Seagal Is Banned From Ukraine

People who didn't closely follow the fortunes of actor Steven Seagal may have been surprised on May 5, 2017, when The Guardian reported that Ukraine had forbidden his entrance for five years, citing him as a threat to national security. In a letter announcing the Seagal embargo, the Ukrainian security service wrote that the actor had "committed socially dangerous actions ... that contradict the interests of maintaining Ukrainian security." One of those actions was his receiving Russian citizenship in 2016. Seagal was given his Russian passport by none other than strongman President Vladimir Putin himself, who said he hoped that their "personal relationship will remain and continue."

The unacceptable political position Seagal holds and the threat he poses to Ukrainian national security are the same: he supports Putin's annexation of Crimea. The Moscow Times recounted an interview Seagal gave to Russia Today, the Kremlin's media outlet. In it, he lambasted President Obama's policy as "idiotic" while saying Putin's "desire to protect the Russian-speaking people of Crimea, his assets, and the Russian Black Sea military base in Sevastopol ... is very reasonable." Seagal's vocal support earned him both the position of Russian Envoy to the US, as well as an eventual path to Russian citizenship, and a ton of Nazi blues fans to boot. About Putin's evaluation of Seagal, Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesperson, said, "I wouldn't necessarily say [Putin is] a huge fan, but he's definitely seen some of [Seagal's] movies."

It wasn't the first time a country took umbrage at Steven Seagal

Being held in Ukraine's contempt wasn't the first time Seagal's feelings for Russia got him in hot water with a country that's been bullied around by Russia. Ukraine was actually the second now-sovereign state to take issue specifically with Seagal and his highly publicized politics. In 2014, Agence France Presse reported that Estonia had cancelled Seagal's appearance at a blues festival after popular outcry. "Steven Seagal has tried to actively participate in politics during the past few months," Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet explained, "and has done it in a way which is unacceptable to the majority of the world that respects democracy and the rule of law." He called Seagal's support of the Russian annexation of Crimea "mindless praise" of a move that many — from the Brookings Institute to the EU to the US Embassy in Ukraine – consider to be illegal.

That mindless praise included Seagal calling Putin "one of the greatest world leaders." Estonia can empathize with Crimea, as the Baltic republic was itself subjected to Russian occupation during the Cold War. It broke away from the USSR in 1991 and later joined NATO in 2004 in defense against Russian influence.

No, neither country is overreacting

Seagal's support for Russia's exploits extends further than television appearances. Just a few weeks after Estonia cancelled his gig, The Guardian noted that Seagal played at a pro-separatist concert in Sevastopol, an annexed port city in Crimea. In a move to double down on his support of Putin's actions in Crimea, the action star appeared on stage wrapped in the flag of the Ukrainian pro-Russia separatists. He was also seen sporting a Putin T-shirt that the concert's organizer gave him.

The next day, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on the proceedings of a pro-separatist concert in Sevastopol. It must be said that the RFE/RL coverage did not mention Seagal, but the timing lays a strong basis to infer his presence. And the concert was quite the neo-Nazi dream of anti-Obama imagery and conspiracy theory promotion. "Enemies who hated us, killed the Soviet state, and took away its territory and its army," Aleksandr Zaldostanov, the nationalist leader of Russia's "Night Wolves" biker gang, shouted. "And now, the healing has begun ... We are celebrating our sacred victory at a time when fascism, like putrid, poisonous dough, has overfilled its Kyiv trough and begun to spread across Ukraine." Other fun activities included a recorded speech by Hitler and torch-bearing dancers in the form of a spinning swastika. With his continuing support for the Russian invasion after such displays, it's no wonder that Ukraine decided that it could not allow Seagal's presence to continue.

The Russian tax service wants Steven Seagal to pay his due

Steven Seagal sure does seem to love the friendship of Vladimir Putin and the adoration of his swastika-dancing blues fans (what in the world is going on over there?), but he doesn't seem to want to be a responsible Russian citizen. In December 2020, The Moscow Times reported that the actor's Russian bank account had been frozen for his failure to pay taxes in the country. A spokesperson for Seagal told the Russian-language news outlet Moskva, "Most likely, this is some kind of mistake." The Russian Federal Tax Service, however, called the decision to suspend his financial activity in the country "valid."

The fact that Seagal would want to be a Russian citizen without paying his fair share in taxes really comes as no surprise. His support for Putin reveals a lack of ethics and respect for human rights. His appearance on the same stage as a bunch of swastika-dancing bikers doesn't help redeem him. If there were any justice in the world, he would have to forfeit ownership of his incredible collection of blues guitars for such an offense, but alas, we foresee no such justice coming his way anytime soon.