Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to Roy Jones Junior, a prominent U.S. professional boxer who had asked for it last month when he met Putin in the disputed region of Crimea, the Kremlin said on Saturday.
The move is the latest example of the Kremlin publicizing cases of prominent Westerners who praise Russia or offer symbolic support for Putin's policies, at a time when Putin is at odds with Western governments over the Ukraine crisis.
A short presidential decree on the Kremlin website said Jones' request had been granted under an article of the constitution giving the president power to solve questions of Russian citizenship.
Putin grants Russian citizenship to U.S. boxer Jones
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a glass of champagne after a state awards ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 10, 2016. AFP PHOTO / POOL / PAVEL GOLOVKIN / AFP / POOL / PAVEL GOLOVKIN (Photo credit should read PAVEL GOLOVKIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu leave Moscow's Red Square on May 9, 2015 after the Victory Day military parade. Russian President Vladimir Putin presides over a huge Victory Day parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Soviet win over Nazi Germany, amid a Western boycott of the festivities over the Ukraine crisis. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with the leader of Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia Leonid Tibilov during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / POOL / IVAN SEKRETAREV (Photo credit should read IVAN SEKRETAREV/AFP/Getty Images)
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Jones, a former Olympic silver medalist and winner of multiple world championship titles, met Putin in August in Crimea, the region that Russia annexed from Ukraine last year, where Jones appeared as a guest on a boxing television show.
In televised comments, the boxer had told Putin that a Russian passport would make it easier for him to travel to Russia and that he hoped he could "build a bridge" betweenRussia and the United States.
Jones is not the first Russophile Western celebrity to have been granted citizenship by Putin.
French actor Gerard Depardieu made headlines in 2013 when he became a Russian citizen in similar fashion. Depardieu has often praised Putin, including his policies in Crimea, as a result of which he has been banned from traveling to Ukraine.
Putin is in Crimea again to meet with his old friend Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian Prime Minister, who has also often defended Putin's policies.
In July, Italian newspaper La Stampa quoted Berlusconi as saying that Putin had offered him Russian citizenship and wanted to make him economy minister.