One-time action movie star Steven Seagal has found a new lease on life in Russia, where he has befriended President Vladimir Putin and frequently appears in state media.
"I don't know him all that well," Seagal said in an interview with state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, published Wednesday. "But I'd like to think I know him well."
"Well enough," Seagal continued, "to say that he's one of the greatest world leaders alive today. I consider him my friend and I'd like to consider him my brother."
"He's a very good man, a man of his word, and it's extremely important for me that, unlike most world leaders, he thinks first and foremost about his country and his people, not about himself and his image."
"He's strong in hand-to-hand combat, he's a brilliant strategist and tactician, and it's not a coincidence that Russia is playing a greater role in the world political game, the system of checks and balances."
"The first time I went to his house, I saw he had a life-size statue of Kanō Jigorō, the founder of judo. I was amazed, I wanted to get to know him better."
"Yes, Putin studied Eastern philosophy, but he's also learned from the experience of great medieval rulers and tacticians. He's a smart guy and he studies great people, historical figures."
"The people most interested in escalating the conflict are the CIA, a few people on Capitol Hill and in President Obama's entourage. President Putin's obviously not interested in that."
"There's an important fact we shouldn't forget: Margaret Thatcher, who was one of the strongest and most powerful leaders of Britain, tried to stop the [European Union] entering her country."
"A little while later she was forced to leave the political stage. So don't underestimate the EU."
"I don't understand the accusations that Putin interfered [in Ukraine]. He said several times that the Russian army won't invade southeastern Ukraine, but I think his desire to defend [Crimea} ... from the chaos going on now is entirely reasonable."
"They're always criticizing Putin on [American] TV. Often they make wild assumptions or make things up. There's an old saying: 'If you say a lie enough times, it becomes true.'"
"One of my friends called me the other day in horror: 'Steven, what happened? Why's your friend Putin acting like that, is he crazy?' I have to explain that it's not like that and you can't believe what you see on TV. It's just cynical propaganda."
"Everything started changing during Vladimir Putin's presidency: the birth rate is going up, the death rate is going down, new industries are being created. Russia transformed before our eyes over the last decade!"
"I've got no intention whatsoever of renouncing my American citizenship, because I love and believe in my country. But I don't have anything against [taking] Russian citizenship. Maybe one day it'll happen."
"Your president is an unbelievably strong person, he raised the country up. Every time I come to Russia, it's more and more of a pleasure."
Max Seddon is a correspondent for BuzzFeed World based in Berlin. He has reported from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and across the ex-Soviet Union and Europe. His secure PGP fingerprint is 6642 80FB 4059 E3F7 BEBE 94A5 242A E424 92E0 7B71
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