Jeff Monson, who once said his heart "belongs with the people of the Donbass," recently became a citizen of the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) in occupied Ukraine.
The UFC veteran became the first American to achieve this controversial feat when he accepted the passport on September 10, City Day in Luhansk.
In a letter to Luhansk People's Republic president Igor Venediktovich Plotnitsky obtained by BloodyElbow, Monson revealed that he is ready to "make an active contribution" to the region through sports.
"I would like to ask you to consider this letter as a request for citizenship in the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR). I feel 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, to which my most recent visit to Luhansk testifies."
The Luhansk People's Republic is a self-proclaimed republic in Eastern Ukraine that makes up one of the three occupied regions of Ukraine. The Ukrainian government labeled the state as a terrorist organization and remains in conflict. It is also considered a pro-Russian rebel state and is only recognized by South Ossetia.
Monson, who is currently in the process of obtaining Russian citizenship, was also recently named the sports ambassador for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). 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. Given that American support is rarely encountered, the KPRF jumped at the opportunity to enlist a willing American communist's support.
"I want to work with the Communist Party to move it further left," Monson told OpenDemocracy. "A lot of the social projects we are discussing, including opening up free schools to promote youth martial arts, can be done despite capitalist restraints."
The KPRF plans to recruit fresh faces to the party by enlisting youngsters in deteriorated regions such as Donbas and Luhansk into martial arts programs. The UFC veteran plans to open a martial arts academy in Luhansk, so his decision to accept the LPR passport likely goes hand-in-hand with the party's agenda. it is an example of sports diplomacy and how political parties enlist the support of popular athletes to further their overarching goals.