Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it had made U.S. actor Steven Seagal its special representative for Russian-U.S. humanitarian ties, a role it said was meant to deepen cultural, art and youth ties between the two countries.
President Vladimir Putin presented a Russian passport to U.S. actor Steven Seagal in 2016, saying he hoped it would serve as a symbol of how fractious ties between Moscow and Washington were starting to improve.
Since then, U.S.-Russia relations have only got worse however with U.S. intelligence agencies accusing Moscow of interfering in Donald Trump's White House run, an allegation Russia denies. The two countries are also at odds over Syria and Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry likened Seagal's new role to that of a U.N. goodwill ambassador and said that the actor, who is known for his martial arts prowess, would receive no salary.
"It's a case of people's diplomacy intersecting with traditional diplomacy," the ministry said.
Seagal's fame peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s with films such as "Under Siege" and "Above the Law", but he remains hugely popular in eastern Europe.
He has previously hung out with Russia's Putin, a fellow martial arts fan.
"I've always had a very strong desire to do all I can to help improve Russian-American relations," RT cited Seagal as saying. "I have worked tirelessly in this direction for many years unofficially and I am now very grateful for the opportunity to do the same thing officially."
After Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, Seagal called Putin "one of the great living world leaders" and even performed with his blues band in the annexed Black Sea peninsula.
Seagal was seen at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and was also among the guests when Putin was sworn in for a fourth term in May.
The 66-year-old actor is also among the Hollywood figures accused of sexual misconduct during the "Me Too" campaign.
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