MOSCOW – Action film star Steven Seagal appears to be trying out a new role: diplomatic matchmaker.
A delegation of American lawmakers arrived in Russia this week to investigate the Boston bombing, but ABC News has confirmed that Seagal helped the group explore a trip to the Russian region of Chechnya.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., confirmed Seagal’s role, which was first reported by Politico, but stressed that the group does not plan to travel to Chechnya. The spokeswoman declined to say why, but Politico reported that some members of the delegation did not want to be meet with Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been accused of gross human rights violations.
Seagal appears to have developed a close relationship with Kadyrov. He recently visited the Chechen leader in Grozny, the region’s capital. Kadyrov posted photos of them together on Instagram.
The delegation, led by Rohrabacher, arrived in Russia earlier this week. It plans to meet with an array of Russian officials, including a dinner Wednesday night with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin and meetings with members of the State Duma, the Russian Parliament, on Thursday, according to a U.S. official. Earlier on Wednesday, the group laid flowers at the site of one of the 2010 Moscow metro bombings.
High on the agenda is a probe into the intelligence sharing between the United States and Russia before April’s Boston Marathon bombing. In 2011, Russia asked the United States to investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspect who was killed in a standoff with police days after the bombing, because it believed he planned to meet up with extremist groups abroad. An FBI investigation found nothing illegal. The FBI said it followed up with Russia to request more information, but never heard back.
“We have been conferring with officials in highest levels of the Russian government to discuss how to improve relations between our countries and how to best meet the challenge posed by radical Islamic terrorism,” Rohrabacher, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, said in a statement provided to ABC News.
“Overall, the purpose of this trip is to examine the information provided to us on the Boston bombers and further the cause of Russian-American cooperation on not only issues of national security but also aerospace,” he added.
The delegation plans to visit the Russian cosmonaut training center at Star City, outside Moscow, during the trip to explore ways to deepen cooperation between the two countries.
The other members of the congressional delegation, which was first reported by ABC News last week, include Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. (who announced Wednesday she would not seek re-election in 2014); Steve King, R-Iowa; Paul Cook, R-Calif.; Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; and William Keating, D-Mass., who is the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats.