Steven Seagal, hard rock and motorbikes: A look at Crimea’s pro-Russian celebration

Actor Steven Seagal took the stage at a Pro-Russia celebration in the Crimean port of Sevastopol to perform blues songs following a motorcycle rally. (Reuters)

This weekend, the recently annexed peninsula of Crimea held a huge celebration. It had all the trappings of a pro-Russian nationalist affair, with motorbikes, pyrotechnics, hard rock music. Even action-movie hero Steven Seagal made an appearance.

According to the Russian news agency Ria Novosti, the Saturday night concert was held in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. It was the finale of a three-day international bike festival organized by the Russian biker gang Night Wolves.

Video from the scene shows a remarkable spectacle. The video, an edited selection aired on Russian TV station Russia-2 and posted to YouTube by a user critical of Russia, shows intense performances by dancers and musicians. Songs that mock Ukraine's government are sung, and performers act out scenes portraying recent events in Ukraine, including the violent Kiev protests and the government shelling of the rebel-held Donbas region in the east.

Another video, posted to YouTube by the Kremlin television network RT, shows Seagal, an American actor best known for his big-budget action movies, performing blues-rock for the crowd. "No man has the right to condemn another man for believing what he believes in," Seagal tells the crowd. In another scene, he is handed a T-shirt with the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin on it.

It's unclear whether the Russian state had any role in organizing the concert. Putin is known to be a friend of Alexander Zaldostanov (a.k.a. "The Surgeon"), the leader of the club and master of ceremonies at Saturday's concert. In 2011, Putin even made an appearance at a rally held by the group:

Of course, this wouldn't be the first time that Seagal has made his pro-Russian views known: He and Putin have bonded over their shared love of martial arts in the past, and last year he made a high-profile visit to Chechnya, the Russian republic intrinsically linked to Putin's leadership.

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.

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