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Sean Penn Arrives in Ukraine to Film Documentary About Russian Invasion

The actor and director came "to tell the world the truth about Russia's invasion of our country," says the office of Ukraine's president.

Sean Penn, seen at the Cannes Film Festival in July, is focusing his lens on the conflict in Ukraine. 
Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

This story is part of War in Ukraine, CNET's coverage of events there and of the wider effects on the world.

Sean Penn has landed in Ukraine to film a documentary about Russia's invasion of the country

"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," reads a statement released Thursday by the office of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. "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."

Since arriving in Eastern Europe, the Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker has visited the president's office -- Zelenskyy's official Instagram account shared a story of the president talking with Penn. Penn also spoke with Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, local journalists and members of the Ukrainian military. 

Russia invaded Ukraine early Thursday in what it called a "special military operation." The attacks came minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the start of military operations after months of mounting tensions. 

While announcing new economic sanctions against Russia on Thursday, US President Joe Biden accused Putin of wanting to reestablish the former Soviet Union, saying the conflict is "about naked aggression, about Putin's desire for empire by any means necessary."

Penn also visited Ukraine in November to prepare for his documentary. During that visit, he visited the Azov region and talked with the Ukrainian military.

The film is a joint production of Vice Studios, which confirmed Penn's presence in Ukraine to Variety; Vice World News; and Endeavor Content. "If he doesn't relent, I believe Mr. Putin will have made a most horrible mistake for all of humankind," Penn said in a statement. "President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have risen as historic symbols of courage and principle. Ukraine is the tip of the spear for the democratic embrace of dreams."

Penn has participated in a number of anti-war and humanitarian efforts over the years. He co-founded Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), a nonprofit that "responds immediately to support underserved communities across the globe through and beyond crises," according to its Instagram page. 

Maksim Chmerkovskiy, another celebrity on the ground in Ukraine as the attacks escalate, shared tearful videos from his homeland on Thursday. "I have a passport and a way out," the former Dancing With the Stars professional said. "A lot of people here do not."


Sean Penn attends a press briefing in Ukraine, where he has arrived to film a documentary on the Russian invasion. 

Office of the Ukrainian president/Facebook