The Oscar-winning actor is in Ukraine, where he is filming a documentary for Vice about the country’s recent tumultuous events. He appeared Friday at a government press briefing in the capital city of Kyiv, before issuing his statement.
“Already a brutal mistake of lives taken and hearts broken, and if he doesn’t relent, I believe Mr. Putin will have made a most horrible mistake for all of humankind. 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. If we allow it to fight alone, our soul as America is lost. “
Penn was previously reported to have visited government officials in the city. The Office of the President issued their own statement praising his efforts, thanking him for making the trip to Ukraine “to tell the world the truth about Russia’s invasion of our country.”
Penn has been working since late last year on his documentary, which is a Vice Studios production in association with Vice World News and Endeavour Content.
Penn has long combined his film career with political and humanitarian efforts. In 2005, he was filmed in a boat helping to rescue victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He is also highly regarded in Haiti, where he set up the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, setting up a camp for 55,000 victims of the earthquake on the island in 2010, and later founded the non-profit organization Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) to distribute aid and, more recently free COVID-19 tests.
He has been a longtime outspoken activist in political matters, winning the Christopher Reeve First Amendment Award from the Creative Coalition back in 2006 for his commitment to free speech. He had previously criticised President George W Bush for military strikes on Iraq, and made headlines with visits to Iran, Cuba and Pakistan. He has also courted controversy, supporting Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and siding with Argentina in its ongoing dispute with the UK over ownership of the Falkland islands. In 2016, he secured an interview with Mexican fugitive Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman prior to his arrest.
In his long career, Penn has made more than 50 films, earning two acting Academy Awards, the first for Mystic River in 2003 and then playing gay activist Harvey Milk in Milk in 2008.