U.S. boxer Roy Jones Jr. applies for Russian passport

Thu Aug 20, 2015 12:50pm EDT
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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Legendary U.S. boxer Roy Jones Jr. has filed for Russian citizenship, state TV reported on Thursday, a day after the multiple champion met President Vladimir Putin and said he wanted to build bridges between Russia and the United States.

Putin, at odds with the West over the Ukraine crisis, responded positively. "If you plan to commit a large part of your live to activity in Russia, then we will naturally be pleased and satisfy your request to get a Russian passport, Russian citizenship," he told Jones in footage shown online.

Putin received the American boxer in Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine last year in a move that drove relations between Moscow and the West, including Washington, to a post-Cold War low.

Determined to prove wrong those saying Russia has faced international isolation over its role in the Ukraine crisis, Moscow has relentlessly publicized cases of popular Westerners praising Russia and sometimes even seeking citizenship.

"I want to ask you about maybe having a passport to go back and forth so that I can do business here because all the people here seem to love Roy Jones Jr., and I love when people love me," the former boxer told Putin on Wednesday evening.

"Sportswise, it would also help build a bridge between the two countries. Which is what I want to do," Jones, looking relaxed in a grey shirt, was shown saying in footage from the meeting posted on the Kremlin website.

Putin welcomed the U.S. boxer by saying "nice to meet you" in English and Jones complimented him on his knowledge of the language. The two went on to discuss sports. Putin is famously a sports buff and an avid judoist himself.

The next day Russian state TV broadcaster Rossiya 24 showed Jones filling in an application for Russian citizenship.

Russia dealt the United States a political poke in the eye in 2013 by granting asylum to Edward Snowden, a former U.S. spy agency contractor who had leaked details of mass state surveillance and is wanted by Washington.   Continued...

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with U.S. boxer Roy Jones, Jr. in Sevastopol, Crimea, August 19, 2015. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin