Sean Penn loans his Oscar to Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy

<span>Photograph: Presidential Press Service Handout Handout/EPA</span>
Photograph: Presidential Press Service Handout Handout/EPA

Sean Penn has given an Oscar statuette to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a meeting in Kyiv.

In a video posted on Zelenskiy’s Instagram account, Penn, who has been one of the most high profile supporters of Ukraine in its fight against Russian invasion, takes the Oscar statuette out of a bag and places it on a table in front of Zelenskiy, saying: “I feel terrible. This is for you. It’s just a symbolic silly thing, but if I know this is here with you then I’ll feel better and stronger for the fight.”

He added: “When you win, bring it back to Malibu. I’ll feel much better knowing a piece of me is here.”

Zelenskiy is then seen giving Penn Ukraine’s Order of Merit, and the pair walk Kyiv’s streets and stop at a plaque in the ground dedicated to Penn. After Penn expresses his gratitude Zelenskiy says: “We thank you very much.” In a caption to his Instagram video, Zelenskiy wrote: “Sean brought his Oscar statuette as a symbol of faith in the victory of our country. It will be in Ukraine until the end of the war,” adding: “Thank you for such sincere support and significant contribution to the popularisation of Ukraine in the world!”

Penn has won two best actor Oscars, for Mystic River in 2003 and Milk in 2008.

Penn was in Kyiv in February 2022 as Russia commenced its full scale invasion of Ukraine and has remained steadfast in his support of Zelenskiy. In March he said he would “smelt [his Oscars] in public” if the Ukrainian president was not allowed to speak at the Academy award ceremony; in the event Zelenskiy did not appear but did address the music industry’s Grammy awards. In September, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said that Penn was banned from entering Russia, along with more than a thousand other US citizens including Hillary Clinton, Ben Stiller and Morgan Freeman, but not Donald Trump.