Entertainment News

  • 11 August 2014, 9:45

Seagal Plays At Gig For Pro-Russian Separatists

Hollywood actor and musician Steven Seagal has performed at a concert in the breakaway region of Crimea, appearing on a stage adorned with the flag of pro-Russian separatists fighting in Ukraine.

Seagal, who knows Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his blues band played at a bikers' show held in the city of Sevastopol, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

The martial artist has come under fire for supporting Russia's annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in March, a view which saw him removed from the line-up at an Estonian blues festival earlier this summer.

At the corner of the stage hung the black, blue and red flag of the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR), declared independent by separatist pro-Russian rebels fighting to break away from Ukraine.

Fans waved Russian and DNR flags as Seagal sang and played his guitar.

The news agency RIA Novosti reported that Seagal was then handed a shirt with Mr Putin's face on it, which he held aloft as he thanked the crowd.

The star is reported to have said he travelled to the region because music unites people.

In a March interview with a Russian newspaper, Seagal was quoted as saying that Mr Putin's desire to protect Russians in Crimea was completely reasonable.

Crimea's largely Russian-speaking residents voted in March to become part of Russia in a hastily organised referendum held as Russian troops patrolled the Black Sea peninsula.

Seagal said in the newspaper interview he considers Mr Putin, with whom he has promoted martial arts in Russia, a friend and would like to consider him a brother.

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov last year told reporters that the Russian president and Seagal have been friends "for a long time" and regularly meet.

Seagal is not the only celebrity to have struck up an unusual relationship with a political figure.

French actor Gerard Depardieu was personally welcomed to Russia by Mr Putin when he abandoned his native France in order to avoid higher taxes.

Former basketball player Dennis Rodman has travelled to North Korea a number of times to meet his "friend" Kim Jong-un.

And other celebrities have come to regret performing for high-profile political leaders.

In 2007 Nelly Furtado sang for Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's family in Italy. When violence broke out in the country following 2011's Arab Spring, she reportedly donated the $1m she earned for the performance to charity.

Beyonce also performed for the Libyan leader at a New Year's Eve party in 2009.

Celebrities including singer Seal, violinist Vanessa Mae, double Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank and actor Jean Claude van Damme caused controversy by performing at a birthday party for Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov in 2011.

Mr Kadyrov has faced criticism over his human rights record. Ms Swank later said she regretted her appearance.

Earlier that year, footballers including ex-Liverpool stars Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman took part in a football match with Mr Kadyrov. Half-time entertainment was provided by British singer Craig David.

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