MOSCOW (CBS SF/AP) – President Vladimir Putin has given a Russian passport to U.S. action film star Steven Seagal, calling it a sign of a thaw in relations with the United States.

The 64-year old actor has been a regular visitor to Russia in recent years and has accompanied Putin to several martial arts events.

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Seagal also has vocally defended the Russian leader’s policies and criticized the U.S. government.

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After awarding Seagal citizenship through a presidential decree earlier this month, Putin hosted the actor at the Kremlin on Friday and handed him the passport.

Putin told Seagal he hopes the ceremony, which was shown on Russian state television, is “also a sign of a gradual normalization of the relations between the countries.”

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