American actor and filmmaker Sean Penn is in Ukraine, filming a documentary on the invasion of the country by Russia. Penn was already in the country gathering background as tensions broke over into outright warfare on Thursday when Russia moved on Ukraine in a full-scale invasion after taking over the easternmost Donbass region on Monday.
The Oscar-winning actor attended a press briefing at the Presidential Office in Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday, where Ukrainian officials heaped praise on the activist director, who had previously brought attention to a number of issues all over the world, including the endemic issues facing Haiti, in his documentaries.
He met with President Volodymyr Zelensky this week, with the office of the President saying Penn had come to the embattled nation to “tell the world the truth about Russia’s invasion of our country,” according to a translated post on social media.
The office posted the message on Facebook on Thursday, along with a photo of Penn attending a press conference held by a presidential adviser.
“Our country is grateful to him for such a show of courage and honesty,” the post read.
Zelensky, who was himself a professional actor before entering politics, also posted a video of a meeting he held with Penn in an Instagram story.
Variety reports that Penn went to Ukraine to film a documentary on the Russian invasion with Vice Studios. According to CNN, a representative for Vice Media Group stated the documentary is a “Vice Studios production in association with VICE World News and Endeavor Content” but it would not confirm Penn’s involvement in the film.
Back in November, Penn was seen in Ukraine, meeting with Ukrainian forces as tensions ratcheted up. A Facebook page for the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation said at the time that Penn was working on a documentary on the ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, although the page is now unavailable.
Newsweek reports that Penn visited the Office of the President and spoke with deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk, as well as local journalists and members of the Ukrainian military since arriving in the country this week.
The Office of the President issued a statement through the Ukrainian embassy saying “The director specially came to Kyiv to record all the events that are currently happening in Ukraine and to tell the world the truth about Russia’s invasion of our country. Sean Penn is among those who support Ukraine in Ukraine today. Our country is grateful to him for such a show of courage and honesty.”
It goes on to state, “Sean Penn is demonstrating bravery that many others have been lacking, in particular some Western politicians. The more people like that — true friends of Ukraine, who support the fight for freedom — the quicker we can stop this heinous invasion by Russia.”
Penn has never shied away from conflict, going to wherever he believes light needs to be shone on a range of issues. The Discovery Plus documentary “Citizen Penn” from 2020 detailed the actor’s part in setting up the organization Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), after the Haiti earthquakes of 2010.
Russians protesting invasion warned they’ll be “Held Liable” for their actions
Meanwhile, on Thursday, there were growing protests in Russia itself against the invasion of Ukraine. the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs warned citizens against protesting the country’s unprovoked invasion, telling residents they “will be detained and held liable” if they’re caught participating in such demonstrations, according to a report from the New York Post.
— Alex Kokcharov (@AlexKokcharov) February 24, 2022
Even that didn’t stop hundreds of Russians from flooding the streets, protesting the invasion. On Thursday evening, demonstrators had assembled on the streets of Novosibirsk and St. Petersburg, the home city of Russian strongman Putin.
The ministry issued a thinly veiled threat against its citizens yesterday, which stated “Offices of the Russian Interior Ministry and other law enforcement agencies …will take all the necessary measures to maintain law and order. Be smart and don’t compromise your safety.”
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) February 24, 2022
Faithwire reports that opposition activist Marina Litvinovich, who had earlier encouraged her fellow Russians to take to the streets and assemble at 7 p.m. Thursday to protest has been detained in Moscow.
Litvinovich was believed to have been taken into custody when she left her house Thursday afternoon.
"Arrest Putin, Not Me" – A protester in Russia said during arrest.pic.twitter.com/JSlxNchUCd
— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) February 24, 2022
Alexei Navalny, the Russian politician who was poisoned by a nerve agent in August of 2020, before being airlifted to Germany for treatment, said from court on Thursday: “I oppose this war, which is being waged by Putin simply to deflect from his domestic political issues, from the complete collapse of the economy. He is willing to impose the cost of war on Russians rather than leave his palace.”
Pushkin Square in the center of Moscow is completely cordoned off. Nevertheless, some came to take a stand against the war in #Ukraine. But anyone who shows his protest openly, like this man with a sign, risks immediate arrest. #Russia pic.twitter.com/3nbnVLq3Wy
— Lyricx ® (@Lyricxfx) February 24, 2022