Steven Seagal Video Pushes Russia Claim HIMARS Killed Ukraine PoWs

The actor Steven Seagal is backing the Kremlin's explanation for an attack on a jail that killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners.

In a video posted to Russian military news site TV Zvezda, Seagal is seen standing amid the ruins of Olenivka prison in the Donetsk region, where an attack on July 29 left 53 dead and dozens injured.

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky called the attack a "Russian war crime" after Kyiv accused Moscow of shelling the prison to cover up the murder and torture of POWS.

The White House has warned that Russia would try to plant false evidence to make it look as if it had been caused by U.S.-supplied weapons. Moscow alleged that Ukrainian forces used the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, to target the facility.

Neither side's claims have been independently verified.

But Seagal, who is renowned for his pro-Russian stance and has boasted about his close ties with Vladimir Putin, whom he described as "one of the great living world leaders," weighed in with his view.

Steven Seagal
A screenshot from the video shows Steven Seagal talking to the camera at Olenivka prison, in the Donetsk region, which he said had been hit by U.S.-supplied HIMARS. This chimes with the Kremlin's explanation for the attack which Kyiv says was carried out by Russian forces. Solovyev Live via Telegram

"If you look at the structure from the outside and the inside, it sure looks like a rocket or a missile to me," he said.

"If you look at the beds and all of the stuff like that, this is certainly is not a bomb. Not to mention that the Russian government now does have a lot of artifacts from the HIMARS."

Seagal added a conspiracy angle by suggesting that Ukraine had used HIMARS because Zelensky wanted to silence a "Nazi" being held at the prison. One of the justifications for Vladimir Putin's invasion of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine was to "denazify" the country.

"The interesting thing is that one of the killed Nazis is a Nazi who just started talking a lot about Zelensky," Seagal said, "and that Zelensky is responsible for the orders about torture and other atrocities."

Open-source intelligence analyst Oliver Alexander said that the footage of Seagal at the site appeared to be authentic, with BBC images matching his surroundings when he gave his statement.

Other images show Seagal holding purported evidence and posing by bars behind which Ukrainian POWs are standing.

Video and images of the visit were shared on the Telegram social media account of Kremlin TV propagandist Vladimir Solovyev, who wrote that Seagal got "personally acquainted with the evidence, including fragments of American missiles."

Military experts told The Washington Post this month that while they could not say what definitively caused the damage, the images from the prison attack were not consistent with HIMARS.

They said signs of an intense fire and a lack of shrapnel marks and craters and only minimal damage to internal walls were at odds with damage caused by the most common HIMARS warhead.

Seagal, who has Russian heritage, has expressed support for Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and two years later, was presented by Putin with a Russian passport.

Last month, the star said that his Moscow-appointed role as a Russian cultural ambassador to the U.S. could "change" amid soured relations between the countries.

Citing the head of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, independent media outlet Meduza reported that Seagal was in the region to film a documentary about the war in the Donbas.

Newsweek has contacted the Ukrainian defense ministry for comment.