UK media reported last month that American actor Steven Seagal was pictured visiting a prison camp in Russian-controlled jail in occupied Ukraine. According to the Daily Mail report, Sehal’s appearance is likely part of a Russian propaganda attempt to blame Ukraine for an explosion at the camp, which killed at least 50 people there on July 29:
9 August 2022 American actor Steven Seagal was pictured visiting a prison camp in Olenivka, Ukraine, a Russian-controlled jail that housed hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners, days after an explosion killed at least 50 people there on July 29. Seagal can be seen standing inside the wrecked prison and sitting down on a bench examining some shrapnel. There is also a picture of Seagal talking to Ukrainian prisoners through metal bars. Seagal was banned from entering Ukraine for five years in 2017 after Putin gave him citizenship and personally handed him his Russian passport in 2016, after he vocally supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He has also praised Putin for being ‘one of the greatest world leaders, if not the greatest world leader, alive today.’ In February, Seagal told Fox News ‘most of us have friends and family in Russia and Ukraine.’ ‘I look at both as one family and really believe it is an outside entity spending huge sums of money on propaganda to provoke the two countries to be at odds with each other,’ he said. In a statement on the blast, Ukraine’s military said Russia planned ‘the deliberate transfer of fighters to new premises shortly before the explosion’ and cited it as evidence of ‘the planned nature of this crime and its commission by the Russian side.’ Officials in Donetsk People’s Republic, where Olenivka is located, have barred independent investigators from reaching the site. Ukrainian authorities said prisoners were transferred to a different part of the prison before the attack, indicating that Russia knew of the attack ahead of time. Moscow claims Ukraine orchestrated the attack with American-made HIMARS missiles to stop Ukrainian prisoners from divulging information, though doubts have been cast over the veracity of the claim. Seagal’s appearance at the prison appears to be an attempt to further that claim.
Read the rest here.
Following his visit to the prison, Seagal appeared on Russian state TV, where he called himself a “diplomat” and defended his visit. Around the same time, Newsweek published a detailed analysis of Seagal’s Russian ties.
In July, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) published a report on “US Amplifiers of Russian Ampliganda,” a term coined by Stanford Internet Observatory researcher Renée DiResta, to describe public participation in the spread of propaganda.