Russia is no stranger to luring washed-up American celebrities to their international causes as a means of clinging to their last remaining bits of fame. Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, for instance, fell in love with the Russian people so much that he moved to recently annexed Crimea to begin making Kremlin-funded films. Vladimir Putin’s interest gave Durst credibility. And among the Russian people that credibility translated to a resurgence in popularity—at least within Russian borders.
Steven Seagal is another of Putin’s celebrity pet projects. The 80s action star first exhausted every opportunity to remain in the limelight here in the United States, including a slew of straight-to-DVD movies in the era of streaming and a reality TV show in which he “served” as an actual sheriff’s deputy in Louisiana. Recently, he made the transition to Russian stardom, accepting a Russian passport from Putin himself, as well as the title of “Special Envoy to the United States,” or more formally, “special representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry on issues of Russian-American humanitarian ties.”
Now, Seagal seems so enamored with his treatment from the Russian government that he hopes to join it. No longer satisfied with a non-paying and largely ceremonial position as a special envoy, Seagal announced this week that he’d like to become the governor of the Primorsky region of Eastern Russia, according to stories published in Russian state-owned media.
According to reports, Seagal was attending the Pacific Meridian movie festival in Vladivostok when he was asked by reporters about his political aspirations. Seagal replied that he “represents President Vladimir Putin’s interests and would take over the gubernatorial seat with pleasure.”
He then went on to say that his ancestors came from the Far East region of Russia before dropping another bombshell: apparently, he has also been appointed the Special Envoy to Japan—a role he says he’ll use to “apply maximum effort to strengthening diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tokyo.”
Seagal’s agent later clarified to reporters that he was “half joking” about his aspirations to serve as governor, though Seagal’s statements don’t seem to support the assertion made by his representative. It seems more likely that asserting himself as a potential candidate for the role of governor stepped on some toes within the Russian government and his team was hoping to mitigate any political fallout.
Recent gubernatorial elections in the region ended in a run-off between the incumbent governor and a federal MP representing the populist opposition party LDPR. The subsequent run-off election ended in a near draw but was then overturned by the local elections commission based on allegations of corruption. Another election is expected.