Hollywood actor and director Sean Penn, sanctioned by Russia for criticizing its war in Ukraine, loaned his Oscar statuette to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday.
“It’s just a symbolic, silly thing,” he said, seated beside the Ukrainian leader at a ceremonial table and pressing his hand on his arm to emphasize his words as aides smiled and laughed. “When you win, bring it back to Malibu.”
Zelenskyy presented Penn, who is making a documentary in Ukraine and marking his third wartime visit, with the Order of Merit honour for strengthening relations, backing Ukraine’s territorial integrity and helping to popularize the country, the president’s office said.
A video showed the two men on their way to view a plaque bearing Penn’s signature, dated February 24, the date of the Russian invasion, and set in the paving stones of an “Alley of Courage” Zelenskyy inaugurated in August to honour friends of Ukraine.
Zelenskyy, a former comedian and actor, said later in his nightly video address that Penn had been “doing everything to help us gather international support” ever since he visited the Ukrainian capital on the day of the invasion.
The alley, he said, was a sign of gratitude to prominent figures who defend freedom with Ukrainians, but also “a reminder to all future generations of our people that different people, forces and industries united for our victory.”
Other honourees named by Zelenskyy included the presidents of the European Commission, Latvia and Poland, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia and Boris Johnson, the former British prime minister.