Early reports from the Russian invasion of Ukraine suggested that President Vladimir Putin’s military had deployed, of all people, actor Steven Seagal alongside its troops. And while the outlandish information released at the time turned out to be false, a Russian outlet did publish a video Tuesday that showed the former action star standing among the wreckage of eastern Ukraine’s Olenivka prison, where a recent attack left dozens of Ukrainian POWs dead.
Russia and Ukraine are each casting blame for the prison’s destruction, meanwhile, with Moscow alleging that Ukrainian forces used U.S.-made ordnance—a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS—to bring the building down, according to the Washington Post.
In a video posted to Russian news site TVZVEZDA, Seagal, who is identified as a special representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation for Humanitarian Relations between Russia and the U.S., appears to serve as a spokesperson against Ukraine’s use of HIMARS.
“It definitely looks like a rocket,” Seagal is reported to have said. “If you look at the burning and other details, of course it’s not a bomb. Not to mention the fact that Russia really has a lot of artifacts from HIMARS. This is where HIMARS hit, 50 people were killed, another 70 were injured.”
According to the Russian site, Seagal added a conspiracy angle by suggesting that HIMARS was used by Ukrainian troops because the country’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wanted to silence a “Nazi” being held at the prison.
“The interesting thing is that one of the killed Nazis is a Nazi who just started talking a lot about Zelensky,” Seagal added, “and that Zelensky is responsible for the orders about torture and other atrocities that violate not only the Geneva War Convention, but are also crimes against humanity.”
The Post, however, indicated that the images from the attack on Olenivka prison are not consistent with HIMARS.
“The experts could not definitively say what caused the damage, but they pointed to a lack of shrapnel marks and craters and only minimal damage to internal walls in the available visuals of the aftermath,” the Post reported. “Instead, there were visible signs of an intense fire, which is at odds with damage caused by the most common HIMARS warhead.”
TVZVEZDA reported that Seagal was among a number of representatives to visit the prison.
“Media representatives from France, Italy, Germany, Serbia, Nicaragua, North Korea got acquainted with the evidence that the strike was carried out by Ukrainian militants and from HIMARS, and also saw with their own eyes all the destruction at the site of this barbaric shelling,” the news site reported.
Open-source intelligence analyst Oliver Alexander weighed in on the veracity of the Seagal footage and indicated its authenticity.
Imagery of the prison from BBC appears to match elements of Seagal’s surroundings as he gave his statement. The same imagery was also matched with a scene in which the action star is positioned on a bench with blast artifacts, footage taken two weeks after the area was originally photographed, Alexander suggested on Twitter.
“[That’s] not how I would expect this ‘smoking gun’ evidence to be handled if Russia, 1. believed it was actual evidence and 2. had any intention of letting UN investigators to the site,” Alexander told Military Times.
Odessa Journal also verified the visit.
Seagal is known for his pro-Russian stature. In particular, he showed strong support for Putin’s plan regarding the annexation of Crimea. In 2016, the actor was given Russian citizenship.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.