Sean Penn in Ukraine filming documentary on Russian invasion

The actor and humanitarian has been meeting with Ukrainian officials and military in Kyiv

Actor Sean Penn is on the ground in Ukraine making a documentary about the Russian invasion, Vice Studios confirmed to Variety on Thursday, as Russia began a full-scale attack on its neighbour.

The Oscar-winning star and longtime humanitarian activist appeared at a press briefing by the Ukrainian government in Kyiv on Thursday, listening to government officials speak about the crisis many world leaders are calling the worst conflict in Europe since 1945.

Penn previously visited Ukraine in November 2021 to research for the film. His visits with the Ukrainian military were documented by the Ukrainian joint forces operation press service, which posted photos of the meetups on social media at the time.

According to Newsweek, Penn arrived in Kyiv earlier this week and met with deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk, as well as local journalists and members of the military.

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'[Penn] is demonstrating bravery that many others have been lacking, in particular some Western politicians'

The office of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a statement through the Ukrainian embassy in praise of the actor and director, who "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,” the translated statement read.

The statement also said 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”.

This is not the first time Penn has put himself in the centre of a crisis. The 61-year-old actor directed the 2020 Discovery Plus documentary Citizen Penn, about the process of establishing his non-profit Community Organized Relief Effort, or Core, in the wake the devastating earthquakes in Haiti in 2010. Core also helped deploy teams for Covid-19 testing and vaccination during the pandemic.

In January 2016, Penn published an exclusive – and highly controversial – interview with Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in Rolling Stone; Penn’s covert journey to visit with the Sinaloan cartel leader, who escaped from prison in 2015, contributed to his arrest by Mexican authorities.

Penn later said he had “terrible regret” that his interview and 10,000-word article did not achieve its true purpose of changing the conversation about the war on drugs. – Guardian