Celebrities react to Russia-Ukraine war: Milla Jovovich and Hayden Panettiere speak out

A number of Hollywood, Bollywood and European stars have condemned the violence in Ukraine

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Celebrity reactions to global crises don't always hit the right tone, but a number of international stars have spoken out about the violence in Ukraine in the past few days, following the Russian attack on February 24.

Ukrainian celebrities, including boxer Wladimir Klitschko, actress Olga Kurylenko and Dancing With the Stars professional Maksim Chmerkovskiy, have condemned the violence.

Russian public figures, including tennis professional Andrey Rublev and singer Regina Spektor, have also spoken out, calling for peace.

Several Hollywood and Bollywood stars have also made public statements. American actress Hayden Panettiere, who has a child with Klitschko, has spoken about the "strength of the Ukrainian people" on social media, Priyanka Chopra said the events of the past week are "terrifying" and Sean Penn has travelled to Kiev to continue work on a documentary he is making about the Russian–Ukrainian conflict.

More divisively, American 90210 actress AnnaLynne McCord shared a poem about the violence.

Hayden Panettiere

Heroes actress Hayden Panettiere is mother to Kaya, 7, whom she had with ex-fiancé, Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko.

The boxer has primary custody of Kaya, who lives with him in Kiev. However, Panettiere has confirmed that her daughter is "safe and not in Ukraine". She did not disclose Kaya's location.

Panettiere posted a photo of herself with Klitschko in Ukraine, with a caption about the "strength of the Ukrainian people".

"What Putin is doing is an absolute disgrace! This horrific moment in history sends a terrifying message: the message that in this day and age, in year 2022, it’s okay to violate the rights of free people and allow autocrats like Putin to take whatever they please," the actress wrote.

"I’m praying for my family and friends there and everyone who’s fighting. I wish you had more support and I wish I was there fighting with you!"

"For now, I ask for those of us who can’t be there to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and show your support for #democracy. Continue to look for updates from @klitschko and @vitaliyklitschko," she wrote.

Wladimir Klitschko

The boxer has also taken to social media to condemn the Russian attacks on Ukraine.

"The world is watching how reckless and deadly imperialism is, not just for #Ukraine but the whole world. Let history be a lesson to not be repeated," Klitschko tweeted on February 24.

He has also taken to Instagram, where he posted a video in which he urges the international community to "stop this war".

In a separate post, he wrote: "I am writing to you from [Kiev], the capital of a country at war, a country being attacked and invaded from all sides. It is not 'the war of Ukraine', it is Putin's war.

"Meticulous preparations were hidden behind the fog of the last few weeks in order to set in motion a plan that had been drawn up for months. No more fog and false diplomatic declarations. Now, the Russian president is using war rhetoric in the purest Bolshevik tradition and is rewriting history to justify his redivision of borders. He makes it clear that he wants to destroy the Ukrainian state and the sovereignty of its people. Words are followed by missiles and tanks. Destruction and death come upon us. That's it, blood will mix with tears."

His brother, Vitali Klitschko, is a fellow former professional boxer and the current Mayor of Kiev. Both of the Klitschko brothers have said publicly they are to remain in the capital.

Sean Penn

Actor and director Sean Penn attends a press briefing at the Presidential Office in Kiev, Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Reuters

American actor and director Sean Penn travelled to Ukraine on February 24 with a film crew. He has been working on a documentary about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict since November last year.

"The director specially came to Kiev 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," a representative for the Ukrainian government told Newsweek. "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.

"[He] 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."

On Saturday, Alyssa Milano shared a message from Penn on Twitter.

"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 & the Ukrainian people have risen as historic symbols of courage & principle," Milano wrote, relaying Penn's words.

"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."

Ashton Kutcher

Actor Ashton Kutcher tweeted, "I stand with Ukraine", on Friday. He has not commented further on the conflict.

Kutcher's wife, Mila Kunis, was born in Soviet Ukraine in 1983. Her family fled and moved to the US in 1991, when she was aged 7.

Kunis has not commented on the recent crisis, but in 2011 she told the Telegraph of her early years: "My parents both had amazing jobs, and I was very lucky. We were not poor when we lived in Russia, whereas most people were very unfortunate."

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie has voiced her concern for the people of Ukraine. Reuters

Actress Angelina Jolie took to Instagram to voice her support for the people of Ukraine.

"Like many of you, I’m praying for the people in Ukraine. My focus along with my @refugees colleagues is that everything possible is done to ensure the protection and basic human rights of those displaced, and refugees in the region," Jolie wrote.

"We have already seen reports of casualties and people starting to flee their homes to seek safety. It is too soon to know what will happen, but the significance of this moment — for the people of Ukraine, and for the international rule of law — cannot be overstated."

Olga Kurylenko

DUBAI, UAE. December 12, 2014 - Olga Kurylenko, a French actress starring in The Water Diviner, is photographed at Mina A'Salam Hotel in Dubai, December 12, 2014. (Photos by: Sarah Dea/The National, Story by: Robert Garratt)

Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko is known for her roles in Quantum of Solace and Black Widow.

“Praying for Ukraine and the safety of its people,” she wrote on Instagram on February 24, along with the prayer hand emojis. She added the hashtag: "#Pleasestopthewar.”

Kurylenko is of Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian heritage. She was born in Berdiansk in south-east Ukraine but moved to Paris, France as a teen to pursue a career in modelling.

AnnaLynne McCord

90210 actress AnnaLynne McCord, 34, shared a poem titled Dear Mister President Vladimir Putin on Twitter, in which she addressed Putin directly, suggesting that his path would have been different if she had been his mother. Putin, aged 69, is 35 years McCord's senior.

In a video, which lasts 2 minutes and 20 seconds, McCord performs her poetic address to the Russian president.

“I'm so sorry that I was not your mother. If I was your mother, you would have been so loved. Held in the arms of joyous light. Never would this story’s plight," the poem begins.

It continues: "The world unfurled before our eyes. A pure demise of a nation sitting peaceful under a night sky.

"If I was your mother, the world would have been warm. So much laughter and joy, nothing would harm."

The poem has been criticised as a "true white woman masterpiece" on Twitter and compared to Gal Gadot and friends' 2020 cover of Imagine, which was labelled tone deaf, given that the virus was having a greater impact on poorer communities.

In an interview with Buzzfeed News, McCord defended her decision to post the poem, saying: "I know how I could easily have moved in the direction of becoming a dictator myself.

"If certain circumstances of my life were different, were I a little less bent toward healing and more toward vindication, I could have been a darkly powerful person."

Andrey Rublev

Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev wrote, “No war please”, on a TV camera moments after advancing to the final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday.

Rublev had just beaten Poland's Hubert Hurkacz when he wrote his message on the camera.

On Saturday, Rublev beat Czech tennis pro Jiri Vesely in the final.

Regina Spektor

Russian singer Regina Spektor shared a photo of herself as a child in the former USSR along with a lengthy Instagram post about the current conflict, in which she explains that "most of [her] grandparents are from Ukraine".

"People can love both cultures and be grateful for both cultures and respect each other ... There were, and still are, real Nazis in the world," she wrote. "But in Ukraine that are just millions of civilians being pulled into a war, and in Russia there are children being sent to fight and die for no reason other than the bottomless and horror filled 'more more more more more more more' of politicians and corporations. And it’s terrifying.

"My grandparents with their eyes full of hunger and war and wisdom are all gone now, and I can’t ask them the important questions anymore," she concluded the post. "I look at that kid with her white 'bantiki' [fabric flowers or bows won in hair] and I wish her, and all the little kids of the past, present, and future, some lasting peace."

Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Ukrainian choreographer and Dancing With the Stars professional Maksim Chmerkovskiy has shared videos from Ukraine as the violence escalated.

"This is the reality,” Chmerkovskiy said in a February 24 Instagram post. "I’m in Kiev, contrary to what I probably should’ve done a while ago, and not that no one saw this coming, but everybody was hoping that the finality of this situation would be averted, that there wasn’t going to be these kind of aggressive measures."

In a separate video he said he was "not trying to leave" but was doing his best to ensure he remained "as safe as possible". Chmerkovskiy is married to fellow Dancing With the Stars professional Peta Murgatroyd, and they have a son, aged 5.

Milla Jovovich

Actress and model Milla Jovovich was born in Ukraine and says she is 'heartbroken and dumbstruck' following the events in the country this week. EPA

Resident Evil actress and model Milla Jovovich was born in Ukraine and says she is "heartbroken and dumbstruck" following the violence in the country this week.

"My country and people being bombed. Friends and family in hiding. My blood and my roots come from both Russia and Ukraine. I am torn in two as I watch the horror unfolding, the country being destroyed, families being displaced, their whole life lying in charred fragments around them," she wrote on Instagram.

"I remember the war in my father’s homeland of former Yugoslavia and the stories my family tells of the trauma and terror they experienced. War. Always war. Leaders who cannot bring peace. The never-ending juggernaut of imperialism. And always, the people pay in bloodshed and tears."

Priyanka Chopra

Indian actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas described events in Ukraine as 'terrifying'. AFP

Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra Jonas described events in Ukraine as "terrifying" in an Instagram post.

"Innocent people living in fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones, while trying to navigate the uncertainty of the immediate future," she wrote, sharing a video by NowThis.

"It’s difficult to comprehend how in the modern world this could escalate to such a catastrophic point, but this is a consequential moment that will reverberate around the world. There are innocent lives living in this war zone. They are just like you and me."

The actress, who is married to singer Nick Jonas, also shared links to ways people can assist the people of Ukraine.

Updated: February 27, 2022, 9:19 AM
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