Russian president says he hopes gesture depicts normalisation of strained closer relations between Moscow and Washington

Vladimir Putin has personally handed a new Russian passport to the American actor Steven Seagal and said he hoped the gesture presented a normalisation of strained the relationship with Washington.

Sitting at a round table in the Kremlin at a televised session on Friday, the Russian president presented the Hollywood star where to sign the passport.

The two men then rose and shook hands, with Putin telling briefly: I congratulate you, and Seagal answering, in Russian: Thank you very much.

The Kremlin released a transcript of their chat, with Putin saying they had been discussing citizenship for a while and concurred it must be an perfectly depoliticised act.

Putin
Putin holds the passport before handing it to Seagal. Photograph: SPUTNIK/ Reuters

Putin said he hoped adding Seagal to the list of celebrities who have gained Russian citizenship in recent years could be seen as a sign of gradual normalisation of the relations between our countries.

Seagal called the passport a great honour to which Putin responded by telling him he hoped their personal relationship will remain and continue.

Steven Seagal dedicated Russian citizenship by Vladimir Putin video

Seagal is the latest in a string of high-profile westerners to be granted Russian citizenship after buddying up with Putin.

Veteran French actor Grard Depardieu was given a Russian passport in 2013 after the starring became a taxation exile in ire over rate hikes in his native country.

Depardieu
Depardieu with Putin at the presidents residency in Sochi in 2013. Photograph: Mikhail Klimentyev/ AP

Putin has also handed out citizenship to US boxer Roy Jones Jr after sipping tea with him in Crimea and to American mixed martial artist Jeff Monson.

Seagals fame peaked in the late 1980 s and early 1990 s with movies such as Under Siege and Above the Law, but he remains enormously popular in eastern Europe and was granted Serbian citizenship in January.

Like Depardieu, he has previously hung out with Putin, a fellow martial arts fan, and other leaders from the former Soviet Union.

After Russias annexation of Crimea, Seagal called Putin one of the great living world leaders and even performed with his blues band in the annexed Black Sea peninsula.

In August, veteran Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko made Seagal eat one of his homegrown carrots in an awkward encounter that depicted mockery online.

Read more: www.theguardian.com