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American actor Steven Seagal (left) chats with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi in August 2012.
A suicide bomber on the loose. Western governments warned of an imminent terrorist attack. Nearby U.S. warships on stand-by.

That was the grim security scenario laid out for next month's Sochi Winter Olympics by former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee on his Fox News talk show on January 26.

But martial-arts expert Steven Seagal knows better, apparently.

Speaking as Huckabee's guest on the conservative U.S. TV news station, the action-movie hero assessed the danger of an attack in Sochi as "extremely remote," citing his acquaintances in the Russian security forces.

Although he acknowledged that absolute security is impossible ("You could walk out to go buy a bag of sugar and get hit by a car" was how he put it), Seagal used the Fox News appearance to lavish praise on Russia's President Vladimir Putin and its Federal Security Service (FSB).

Seagal also urged U.S. President Barack Obama to pursue closer relations with Russia.

"They are a very powerful country with spectacular natural resources and a wonderful leadership," he said. "And, I believe that they are our friends and I think one of the only ways we are going to survive without getting swallowed by other superpowers or adversely affected is to be best friends with Russia. I think they should be our great allies."

On Sochi, Seagal reasoned that the colossal security presence in the region would prevail during the games.

"The chances of any of these suicide bombers actually being able to pull it off are extremely remote by virtue of the fact that Sochi is on such high alert," he said. "They've got amazing assets in place with great liaison over the world. President Putin is doing the very, very best he can. And, like I said, the FSB and [their elite counterterrorism taskforce] Alfa Spetsnaz are really some of the best on Earth, so it's going to be pretty tough for anybody to pull it off."

WATCH: Steven Seagal discusses Sochi security measures.

Huckabee introduced Seagal as "the unofficial ambassador who’s developed a friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, something our president has not been able to do."

The comment appeared to be a jibe aimed at the cool relationship between Putin and Obama, who is one of several Western leaders skipping the Olympic opening ceremonies.

Seagal does indeed enjoy good relations with Russia. He has been photographed with Putin, and he was asked in March 2012 by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to lobby in the United States for opening up the U.S. market to Russian rifles.

The actor was also scheduled to lobby for Kalashnikov rifle sales at an arms exposition in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Seagal was less voluble, however, when asked about U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who has been given temporary asylum in Russia.

Without knowing the actual content of the material Snowden leaked, Seagal said, "it's not easy for me to comment [on the matter]."

-- Tom Balmforth
A screen grab of a tweet showing newlyweds "Marina" and "Andriy" at Independence Square in Kyiv
Kyiv has seen intense fighting since January 19, when antigovernment protesters and police clashed on Hrushevskyy street, 1.5 kilometers from the main hub of the “Euromaidan” opposition protests on Independence Square.

But between battles with police and the occupation of buildings, the near-apocalyptic scenes have created a ready-made platform for artistic -- or social -- creativity.

Music

Ukraine is the birthplace of a host of well-known composers, including Mykola Leontovych, who was once nicknamed the "Ukrainian Bach." Fittingly, pianos, along with some fledgling virtuosos, have appeared in some unexpected places.

In the video below, a protester plays a rendition of "Nuvole Bianche" by Ludovico Einaudi, an Italian pianist. The performance was apparently filmed outside the Kyiv regional administration building and is titled "An extremist seizes a piano at 'Euromaidan.'" (Government officials have accused some protesters of extremism.)

Overnight between January 26 and 27, protesters seized Kyiv's Ukrainian House after noticing that security forces had assembled inside. Soon after, a demonstrator performed French composer Yann Tiersen's "Atlantique Nord" for assembled guests in the convention center's concert hall:

In this eerie scene recorded by Sky News producer Yulia Bragina on January 23, a lone saxophonist toots his horn as dusk settles in on the smoldering rubble of Hrushevskyy street:​


Wedding Snaps

Wedding parties tend to seek shots around town that will provide memories that last a lifetime (or at least the length of a marriage). One couple saw the barricades as the perfect spot for such a shot.

Newlyweds who identified themselves to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service as Marina and Andriy said they chose to come to Independence Square straight after their nuptials to show support for the protesters.





Battle Landscapes

No battle is complete without first being immortalized on canvas. In the photo below, an artist paints the scene of destruction outside Dynamo stadium on Hrushevskyy street:


Battle Anthems

Along the barricades of Hrushevskyy street, protesters bang on metal to rally cold demonstrators for battle, creating an almost constant din:


Ukraine's riot police, the Berkut, have responded with their own battle hymn:

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About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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