Actor and director Sean Penn on Tuesday gifted Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy one of his Oscar awards as a symbol of strength, and asked the leader to hold onto it until his country can defeat Russia.
Penn’s visit to Ukraine on Tuesday was his third since the start of its war with Russia.
“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 fights,” Penn said in a video posted online by Zelenskyy’s office. “When you win, bring it back to Malibu.”
Zelenskyy initially declined the Academy Award, but eventually accepted the offer.
“We have to win,” the president said.
He later wrote in a post, “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.”
Penn has won two Oscars for Best Actor during his career. He received the first award in 2003 for his role in the film “Mystic River” and the second in 2008 for “Milk.”
Zelenskyy also presented Penn with an award during their meeting, giving the actor the Order of Merit of the III degree for his support of Ukraine. Penn’s name will be added to the “Walk of the Brave” in Kyiv, which honors foreign leaders and representatives who have offered significant support for Ukraine.
Penn’s last visit meeting with Zelenskyy was in June. The Hollywood director was also in Ukraine on February 24, the day Russia launched its invasion, as he was shooting footage for his documentary on the unfolding crisis that was already in the works.
He was one of the thousands of people forced to flee on foot to Poland when Russian missiles began hitting Ukrainian cities.
The actor has hosted fundraisers through his CORE charity in support of Ukraine. In the spring, he even considered taking up arms to defend the war-torn country.
In September, Moscow banned Penn and fellow actor Ben Stiller, another vocal critic of the war, from entering Russia.