By Mona Khalifeh, ETOnline.com.

Sean Penn is back in Ukraine, and this time with a symbolic gift he hopes will continue to boost morale in the country’s war against Russia. During a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the capitol city of Kyiv, Penn gifted the president one of his Oscars statuettes as a “symbolic” gesture to both Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict.

“It’s just a symbolic silly thing, but if I know this is here then I’ll feel better and strong enough for the fights,” Penn told Zelenskyy during his visit, which was captured in a video posted to the president’s Telegram channel. “When you win, bring it back to Malibu, because I’ll feel much better knowing there’s a piece of me here.”

The Oscar — one of the two Best Actor in a Leading Role trophies won by Penn in 2004 and 2004 respectively — will stay in Ukraine until the end of the war.

In return, Zelenskyy honored Penn with Ukraine’s Order of Merit, saying “It’s not from me, it’s from Ukraine.”

“There are three places in the world that all the pride of my life will be,” Penn said. “The place where my daughter was born, the place where my son was born and this.”

Photo: Ukrainian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Photo: Ukrainian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

While Penn brought his Oscar as a symbol of good faith, he previously vowed to “smelt” the statue if the Academy did not invite Ukraine’s president to appear at the 2022 Oscars, despite the Academy rule, which prohibits its award winners from selling or otherwise disposing of the Oscar statuette.

“There is nothing greater that the Academy Awards could do than to give him that opportunity to talk to all of us,” Penn said of Zelenskyy, a fellow former actor. “This is a man who understands movies and had his own very long and successful career in that.”

Penn alleged, “It is my understanding that a decision has been made not to do it. That is not me commenting on whether or not President Zelenskyy had wanted to.”

While Zelenskyy ultimately did not appear at the Oscars, he did address the world at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards.

Photo: Ukrainian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Photo: Ukrainian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Zelenskyy, who was an entertainer himself before winning the presidency in 2019, appeared via a pre-taped message during the ceremony, introducing a performance by John Legend by imploring viewers to fill the silence of war with music and speak out about the ongoing conflict.

“The war doesn’t let us choose who survives and who stays in eternal silence,” Zelenskyy said at the time, in English. “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals. Even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway.”

“We defend our freedom. To live. To love. To sound,” he added. “On our land, we are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs. The death, silence. Fill the silence with your music! Fill it today, to tell our story.”

Penn’s trip to Ukraine marks his third to the country. An outspoken advocate for Ukraine and its fight against Russia, Penn traveled to the war-torn country earlier this year, to meet with Zelensky while filming a Vice documentary about the conflict.

At the time, he released a statement condemning President Vladimir Putin. “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 Zelenskyy 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.”

His ongoing efforts in Ukraine ultimately placed Penn on Russia’s permanent ban list, joining Ben Stiller and 25 “high-ranking officials, representatives of the business and expert communities, as well as cultural figures” that can no longer legally enter the country.

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Ellen Bullock