Steven Seagal has appeared on Russian state media to defend his visit to a prison where Ukrainian prisoners of war were burned alive last month.
The former action star, who has been a Russian citizen since 2016, said he went to see “evidence” of what happened – before repeating Kremlin propaganda that Kyiv was to blame.
Seagal, 70, who also had a brief career in a soul band, described himself as a “diplomat” and said he is producing an “unbiased” documentary about the Ukraine war, though he professes his love and admiration for Vladimir Putin.
The Olenivka prison in an area of Donbass occupied by pro-Russian forces was burned down on July 29, killing about 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war. Many of them were veteran heroes of the Mariupol battle.
Steven Seagal has posed as a “diplomat” on Russian state television to justify visiting a Russian POW camp where 50 Ukrainians were burned
Grilled by Putin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, Seagal parroted Kremlin propaganda that the attack was carried out by Ukraine – saying it was “a billion percent sure”.
Russia says Ukraine ordered an attack on the prison and carried it out with US-supplied HIMARS missiles that wreaked havoc behind Putin’s front line.
Kyiv says it’s a lie, and Moscow has burned down the prison, which former inmates liken to a concentration camp, to hide evidence of the torture carried out there.
Western observers and experts agree with Ukraine, saying images of the warehouse where the prisoners died showed it largely intact after the fire – which they say would not be the case if it were hit by an explosive HIMARS missile .
The beds inside the building where Ukrainian prisoners burned to death in their sleep are also undisturbed, and there is no visible blast crater.
HIMARS missile fragments, shown on Russian state TV as “evidence” of the attack, could easily have been collected elsewhere on the battlefield and brought to the building, they added.
Meanwhile, other prisoners at the camp who are in contact with families outside the walls have also not reported hearing an incoming rocket or explosion.
To counter this narrative, Russia sent Seagal to conduct its own inspection – with the “diplomat” concluding “a billion percent” that HIMARS was to blame.
American actor Steven Seagal stands in the bombed-out compound where at least 50 Ukrainian prisoners were killed on July 29
Seagal speaks to Ukrainian prisoners through metal bars. Seagal was vocal in supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014
Seagal, a longtime friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, examined shrapnel in the town of Olenivka
He told propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, “I know a little bit about these things. I can tell you a billion percent of the time it wasn’t a bomb going off the ground.
“You could see where a rocket came from outside and burned everything.”
A martial arts expert and Buddhist who starred in action films in the 1990s, Seagal’s career fell through when he was accused of sexual assault by several female co-stars and faced with allegations that he abused stuntmen on set.
After a brief career in a soul band, he began ingratiating himself with Russia around 2014 — the last time Putin invaded Ukraine — calling the attack “very reasonable.”
Around the same time, he branded Putin “one of the greatest leaders in the world” and became a Russian citizen two years later.
In 2017 he was banned from entering Ukraine after being labeled a “national security threat” and in 2018 he was appointed special envoy to Russia by Putin himself to improve relations with the US.
He has continued parroting Kremlin propaganda throughout the Ukraine war and now claims to be making a balanced documentary about it.
His visit to Olenivka appears to be part of the film-making process, with images pumped up by Russian state media showing him there examining rocket fragments and speaking to prisoners.
Seagal is known for being friends with several other controversial world leaders, including Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
Russian President Vladimir Putin and American actor Steven Seagal visit a newly built sports complex of the prominent wrestling school Sambo-70 in Moscow
Lukashenko is a close ally of Putin and has repeatedly echoed the Russian President’s feelings about his invasion of Ukraine, even calling the Russian military’s massacre of civilians in Bucha western propaganda.
Seagal has also mingled with the likes of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and former President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, with whom he practiced karate.
Both Seagal and Putin are avid martial artists – Seagal has long practiced aikido, while Putin studied judo and sambo.
In response to the invasion of Ukraine, Putin was suspended as president of the International Judo Federation a few weeks ago.
Seagal was seen celebrating his 70th birthday in Moscow in April, where he rubbed elbows with many members of Russia’s elite who have been sanctioned by Western countries.
Vladimir Soloviev, a controversial Russian TV presenter who openly supports Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, stands next to Seagal.
Seagal tells the crowd in English, “Every one of you, you are my family and my friends. And I love you all and we stand together through thick and thin.’
On April 10, the day Seagal celebrated his birthday with the Russian elite, the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol said more than 10,000 civilians had died after weeks of Russian bombing and starvation from the siege.