Monday, December 21, 2015
US star athlete Roy Jones Jr. has requested a Russian passport after meeting President Vladimir Putin in Crimea. The former world champion said he wanted to help "build a bridge" between Russia and the United States.
Jones signed his citizenship application at a press conference in Crimea on Thursday.
"Russians' attitudes cannot but inspire love, that's why I want to be with this people," Jones said in comments translated into Russian by TASS news agency.
The boxing legend is visiting the Crimean peninsula ahead of a boxing show scheduled for Sunday. Jones is set to appear as a guest star at the spectacle, organized by the pro-Putin biker gang the Night Wolves .
Moscow took control of Crimea last year, marking one of the initial steps in the Ukraine crisis which led to relations between Moscow and Washington plunging to the lowest point since the Cold War.
"Russian citizenship would help me with bridging the chasm between the two countries," Jones wrote in his citizenship application form, as quoted by the Russian Interfax.
Jones intends to keep his American citizenship in addition to the possible Russian passport, according to the local media.
'People love me'
The famous US boxer first mentioned his citizenship bid when meeting Russian President Putin for tea on Wednesday.
"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," Jones told Putin.
Putin replied that the Kremlin would gladly grant Jones Russian citizenship, if he were to link "a significant part" of his life to activities in Russia.
The Russian president is known for spending time with Western celebrities, including actors and marshal artists like Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme. The Kremlin chief holds black belts in judo and karate and is co-author of a book on the history and practice of judo.
French actor Gerard Depardieu also became a Russian citizen in a widely publicized case two years ago, with Putin personally delivering his passport.