Kim Basinger has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to free captive whales.

The 59-year-old actress has penned a letter to the head of state, imploring him to release 18 beluga whales that were recently banned from being imported to Georgia Aquarium and its SeaWorld affiliates in the US by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Kim wrote: ''I was thrilled to learn that the 18 beluga whales who were slated to be transported from the Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station to a U.S. aquarium will remain in Russia and out of my home state of Georgia. The whales would have had a bleak life if they had been shipped to Georgia for public display.

''At least four belugas and two whale sharks have already died at the Georgia Aquarium in recent years. As an ardent supporter of marine life, I commend you for your efforts to preserve this magnificent species.

''Now that these whales will not be transferred to the U.S., I urge you to take the next step and ensure that they are returned to their rightful ocean home.''

Kim - who is a long-time supporter of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) - tried to tug on Putin's heartstrings by asking the wildlife fan to take an ''unequivocal stand'' and release the poor whales to their pods in the ocean.

The '8 Mile' star added: ''The plight of these whales has the whole world watching to see what will happen next. I urge you to help return these belugas to their families in the ocean. Will you take a strong unequivocal stand in favour of marine animals by initiating the rehabilitation-and-release process?''