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Putin Presents Passport To New Russian Citizen Steven Seagal

U.S. actor Steven Seagal (right) signing his new Russian passport at a November 25 meeting with President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin.

President Vladimir Putin on November 25 personally presented a new Russian passport to U.S. actor Steven Seagal, whom the Russian leader granted citizenship earlier this month.

Putin gave the passport to Seagal during a meeting in the Kremlin, saying he hopes the actor's new citizenship is a sign of a "gradual normalization of bilateral relations between our governments," according to a Kremlin transcript.

The actor then signed his passport after Putin told him it would not be valid otherwise.

Seagal is one of several Western celebrities who have socialized with Putin and praised him, despite the deep chill in diplomatic relations between Moscow and the West over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula and backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Other foreign celebrities to be awarded Russian citizenship by the Kremlin in recent years included French actor Gerard Depardieu and U.S. boxer Roy Jones Jr.

The Kremlin and senior Russian officials have voiced optimism that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's stunning victory over Hillary Clinton could bring a warming of ties.

Trump has spoken positively of Putin and said he wants to mend relations and cooperate more closely on issues such as counterterrorism.

Seagal told Putin it was an "honor" to be in the Kremlin and meet with the Russian president, according to the Kremlin transcript.

The Kremlin announced in early November that Putin had granted Russian citizenship to Seagal following a longstanding request from the actor.

With reporting by TASS, AP, Interfax, and Reuters
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