Fact Check: Claims Steven Seagal Joined Russian Forces Invading Ukraine

Several purported news reports and videos on Youtube are being shared on social media, claiming to show veteran Hollywood star Steven Seagal participating in Russia's military operations in Ukraine.

The Claim

A screenshot of a purported CNN tweet, shared, among others, by Joe Rogan, appears to suggest that U.S. actor Steven Seagal has been "spotted by intelligence agencies" fighting alongside Russian troops near the Hostomel military airfield recently captured by the Russians.

Though the controversial comedian appears to have shared the image as a joke, it has since received more than 240,000 likes and has been shared in earnest by other users on Instagram and other social media.

Similarly, a Youtube video clip from a Sky News report has been shared, captioned "Steven Seagal spotted fighting in Ukraine," featuring a tall man with black hair and a ponytail, dressed in military gear.

Some commentators are also referencing reports that the 69-year-old actor was last known to be living in Moscow, reportedly to escape U.S. tax authorities.

The Facts

There is no evidence that claims about Steven Seagal's participation in the Russian invasion of Ukraine are grounded in fact.

While it is true that the actor is a known Kremlin sympathizer and a friend of both Russian President Putin and Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenka (with whom he famously shared a carrot in 2016, as seen in a viral video), the reports of his supposed involvement in the military operations are false.

The screengrab shared by Rogan and others is fake. The image used is actually from a 2017 film called Cartels (aka Killing Salazar), which features the veteran action movie star in a minor role as a member of an elite special ops squad.

The CNN logo is tagged on digitally and there is no evidence that such a tweet or corresponding article was ever published. The most recent mention of Seagal by the news network is a video from June 2021 showing the actor, who holds a Russian citizenship, joining Russia's pro-Kremlin political party "A Just Russia For Truth."

As for the Sky News clip, as the audio commentary indicates, it shows a group of Ukrainian—not Russian—soldiers detaining potential Russian saboteurs in Ukraine.

The soldier that is purported to be Seagal does indeed have a resemblance to the actor in his younger years, but upon closer examination several differences are apparent.

First, his hair is dark, but not black like the actor's. Second, as per the most recent photos Seagal shared on his Instagram, he is significantly bulkier and less fit than the man in the video.

The actor has been banned from traveling to Ukraine since 2017 due to his ties with the Kremlin.

Despite speculation that Seagal, who is a special envoy in the U.S. for Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been based in Moscow in recent years, the actor's current whereabouts could not be independently confirmed by Newsweek.

His last Instagram post features him meeting Emirati officials in Dubai in September 2021. Most recent news reports about the actor involve his real estate business, namely his alleged sale of a property in Canada.

Shortly after the article was published, the actor's PR representative responded to a Newsweek comment request, stating there was "zero truth" to suggestions Seagal had joined the Russian offensive.

"Steven has been in Dubai on business for the last week. There is zero truth to the wild photoshopped image shared on social media which is lifted from Steven's 2017 movie named Cartels," Seagal's representative said.

They added that it was unfortunate that social media accounts with large followings are failing to do the due diligence of fact checking unverified claims.

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

No, there is no evidence that Steven Seagal has joined the Russian forces fighting in Ukraine. A purported screenshot of a CNN tweet is digitally manipulated and features a shot from a movie scene. The video claiming to show Seagal in Kiev is in fact featuring a member of the Ukrainian military.

Update 2/28/22, 10:10 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include a comment from Steven Seagal's representative.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK

Steven Seagal and Vladimir Putin in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin handed US action star Steven Seagal a Russian passport during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on November 25, 2016. ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP via Getty Images