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President Putin bestows top honour on action hero Steven Seagal

American action hero Steven Seagal, a long-time ally of President Vladimir Putin, has been bestowed Russia’s top award for his “international humanitarian work”.

A decree published on Monday (local time) said the 70-year-old star of films such as Under Siege had been given Russia’s Order of Friendship.

There was no immediate reaction from Seagal who was famous in the 90s as a martial arts action figure in the ilk of Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The decree mentioned Seagal’s work as a special representative of Russia’s Foreign Ministry for humanitarian ties with the United States and Japan.

Steven Seagal with President Putin in Moscow in 2013. Photo: Getty

The US-born actor and martial arts practitioner has long admired Mr Putin, from whom he received a Russian passport in 2016.

Seagal, a frequent visitor to Russia, backed Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 as “very reasonable”.

He joined a pro-Kremlin party in 2021, and visited a Russian-controlled part of eastern Ukraine last summer, where he met with a Russian-backed separatist leader.

Ukraine in 2017 banned Seagal from entering for five years on national security grounds.

Seagal lived in Japan and worked as a martial arts instructor there before moving to Los Angeles and gaining fame with his first movie in 1988 in Above the Law.

Steven Segal was a famous action hero (pictured with Sylvester Stallone in 1995). Photo: Getty

UN: Russia’s human rights abuses

Seagal’s unusual honour came as Russia’s own human rights record was under the spotlight at a meeting of the Human Rights Council.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres accused Russia of “massive violations” of human rights during the war.

In a speech to the Human Rights Council, he said Moscow’s abuses were “the most massive violations of human rights we are living today”.

These included deadly shelling attacks on civilians and key infrastructure that have brought “terrible suffering”.

Mr Guterres added that dozens of cases of conflict-related sexual violence against men, women and girls, had been documented in Ukraine in the last year.

“Serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law against prisoners of war and hundreds of cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions of civilians” have been uncovered in the past 12 months, he said.

A number of countries called on the Human Rights Council to investigate the alleged transfer of thousands of children from Ukraine to Russia.

“What could be more abhorrent than to take children out of their homes?,” said Germany Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the unprecedented six-week session in Geneva.

“We will not rest until every single child will be home.”

-with AAP

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