On May 29, 2018, president Vladimir Putin awarded Jeff Monson Russian citizenship in a decree published on the government’s website.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Putin, explained the reasons behind the Kremlin’s decision to award Monson Russian citizenship.
”He carried out all the procedures, applied for citizenship in the appropriate order. He is a well-known person in the world of sports, in his discipline, and a world-famous person, which became the basis for granting him citizenship,” said Peskov. “Such practice exists in many countries of the world.”
Peskov also confirmed that Monson is still expected to take the oath so that “it will finally be considered that he took citizenship.”
During the years he spent awaiting his Russian citizenship, Monson remained active in the post-soviet sphere. The former UFC fighter also happens to be the first American citizen to accept a passport from the Luhansk People’s Republic, an occupied territory in Eastern Ukraine. In a letter to LPR president Igor Venediktovich Plotnitsky obtained by BloodyElbow, Monson stated that he feels a “sincere and deep kinship with the people of Donbas and wholeheartedly support their fight for independence. I am ready to make an active contribution to the development of youth sport on the territory of the republic and to do my part to inform the world community about the reality on the ground in the LPR.”
The newly minted Russian citizen also holds citizenship in the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia.
Monson, 47, was also named the sports ambassador for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) in 2016. The Communist Party sent Monson to Luhansk several months ago as part of a new “sports programme”, which is designed to improve the party’s image both on the international stage and at home. This includes plans to enlisting youngsters in deteriorated regions such as Donbas and Luhansk into martial arts programs. It is an example of sports diplomacy and how political parties enlist the support of popular athletes to further their overarching goals.
Monson is not the first foreign celebrity to be awarded Russian citizenship. Among those who were handed passports include actors Steven Seagal and Gerard Depardieu, boxer Roy Jones. Jr, and basketball player John Robert Holden.