Eight months after Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, John Warren told a geographical-society conference in Moscow that he would use his culinary travel show on Russia’s national NTV network to help Russians “see their country.”
“I will do my part,” Warren, a British citizen who made a name for himself in Moscow producing craft sausages for local expatriates, told the November 2014 conference that included President Vladimir Putin, who praised Warren’s Russian as “completely without an accent.”
But taking his viewers to Crimea, whose annexation by Russia in 2014 triggered international sanctions targeting Moscow, has now cost Warren future visits to Ukraine, where he says he has traveled frequently in recent months.
WATCH: A Crimea edition of the food program Let’s Go, Let’s Eat (in Russian, no English subtitles)
A spokesman for Ukraine’s border service said on Facebook this week that Warren is barred from entering Ukraine for visiting the Black Sea peninsula, one of scores of such bans Kyiv has handed down in recent years against officials, entertainers, journalists, and others over their travels to Crimea.
Oleh Slobodyan said in the July 10 post that Warren was stopped at Kyiv’s Boryspil Airport that day and found to have previously violated Ukrainian laws on entering and exiting Crimea, which Russia annexed after sending in troops and holding a referendum deemed by 100 UN members to be illegitimate.
Warren, who says he was flying from Kyiv to London when he was stopped at passport control, “has also been barred from entering Ukraine for three years,” Slobodyan wrote.
Under Ukrainian law, authorities can blacklist individuals for traveling to Crimea without first obtaining permission from Kyiv. In 2016, Ukraine hit 140 Russian entertainers with entry bans on those grounds.
Kyiv has also hit actors Gerard Depardieu and Steven Seagal — both of whom were granted Russian citizenship by Putin — with entry bans. Both men have publicly supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service said in January that nearly 1,500 foreigners are banned from entering the country due to what authorities deem “illegal” visits to Crimea.
A number of journalists — primarily from Russia — have been banned as well for “activities that are contrary to the interests of Ukraine.” Those moves have drawn criticism from rights and media-freedom groups.
The Russian Embassy in London on July 11 denounced Kyiv’s ban on Warren, who has lived in Russia for more than two decades, and accused Britain and Ukraine of hypocrisy on the issue of press freedoms and civil liberties.
Warren did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via Facebook on July 11.
Several episodes of the show he hosts, titled Let’s Go, Let’s Eat, have been shot in Crimea, including ones that aired in April 2015, March 2016, and April 2017.
Slobodyan indicated in his Facebook post that Warren made the offending trip to Crimea in the fall of 2015.
Warren began his career in Russia as a grain trader just after the fall of the Soviet Union, according to a 2010 profile by bne IntelliNews. In 2004, he set up the successful and aptly named company Warren’s Sausages, which produced craft sausages targeting Moscow’s expat community and which he later sold.
His career in the meat business earned him the nickname “Sausage Man” in Moscow.
In a July 10 interview with NTV, Warren said he freely admitted to Ukrainian border guards that he had visited Crimea and explained that he had previously traveled to other countries locked in geopolitical standoffs, including Israel and Iran, without any problems.
“There are countries that are above all of this,” Warren told NTV, calling the situation “unfortunate.”