Russia took an unusual position when it appointed American actor Steven Seagal with a diplomatic mission over the weekend.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it had appointed Seagal as “special representative” on humanitarian relations between Russia and the United States, CNN reported.
The unpaid position is likened to goodwill ambassador roles at the United Nations. Seagal will collaborate with officials “in the development and implementation of various projects for bilateral cooperation in the field of culture, arts, science, education, sports, public and youth exchanges,” the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
The statement added that the appointment serves “the purpose of strengthening direct contacts, mutual understanding and trust between the Russian and American peoples.”
Seagal acquired Russian citizenship in 2016 and is considered a close friend to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He reportedly attended Putin’s inauguration in May.
Following the announcement, Seagal made a statement on Twitter:
“I am deeply humbled and honoured to have been appointed as a special representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry in charge of Russian and American Humanitarian ties. I hope we can strive for peace, harmony and positive results in the world. I take this honour very seriously.”
I am deeply humbled and honoured to have been appointed as a special representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry in charge of Russian and American Humanitarian ties.
I hope we can strive for peace, harmony and positive results in the world.
I take this honour very seriously pic.twitter.com/LTuUxsk1aZ
— Steven Seagal (@sseagalofficial) August 5, 2018
Seagal has been a staunch defender of Putin and his policies, including the 2014 annexation of Crimea, and criticisms against the U.S. He reportedly called Putin “a great world leader” and a “brilliant tactician.”
Ukraine banned Seagal from entering the country for five years due to national security concerns, RadioFreeEurope reported.
Last year, he spoke with Piers Morgan on “Good Morning Britain” during which he criticized those who blamed Russia for the 2016 U.S. Presidential election hacking.
“For anyone to think that Vladimir Putin had anything to do with fixing the elections, or even that the Russians have that kind of technology, is stupid,” he said.
“And this kind of propaganda is really a diversion … so that the people in the United States of America won’t really see what’s happening, ” he added.
In 2013, Putin reportedly suggested that Seagal should serve in an honorary capacity as an envoy to Russia in an effort to improve U.S.-Russia relations. That year, Seagal was credited for arranging congressional meetings with Russia in order to investigate the Tsarnaev brothers after the Boston Marathon bombing.
The Russian statement on Seagal’s appointment also said: “We appreciate Mr Seagal’s willingness to use his experience and authority for promotion of the Russia-US public, cultural and humanitarian links as well as for building a more positive atmosphere in bilateral affairs.”