Actor and director Ben Stiller met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Monday to mark World Refugee Day.
Stiller, who is visiting Ukraine as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), spoke of Zelenskyy when they met, telling the president, “You’re amazing.”
Stiller’s visit to the country comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to force millions of people to flee the war and into international displacement.
Ukraine on track to run for EU at summit, members say
The couple shook hands and introduced Zelenskyy to Zoolander actor that he and other government officials in the room (including Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba) knew Stiller “very well”.
“It was a great honor for me,” Stiller, 56, told Zelenskyy, 44.
“It was really great,” Stiller continued, telling the Ukrainian leader, “You are my hero.”
The couple briefly discussed Zelenskyy’s acting career. Until his landslide election victory in 2019, Zelenskyy was an actor and stand-up comedian. He even played a Ukrainian president in a popular TV series.
“You gave up a great acting career because of this,” Stiller mused.
“Not so great as yours,” Zelenskyy replied.
“But what you did and the way you brought together the country and the world, it was really inspiring,” continued Stiller.
Later, Stiller, Zelenskyy and several other Ukrainian officials sat down to discuss the Russian invasion and its impact on the people of this country.
Russian journalist sells Nobel Peace Prize for 103.5 million USD to support Ukrainian children
“It is not interesting to talk about war every day,” explains Zelenskyy. “But for us, it’s very important.”
The Ukrainian president said ending the war becomes especially difficult when “people forget to talk about it”.
Russia launched its invasion of the country almost 4 months ago on February 24th.
Zelenskyy thanks Stiller for continuing to bring new attention to the war.
“I find it hard to understand what’s really going on here if you’ve never been here,” said Stiller.
Stiller said: “The level of devastation… You see it on TV, you see it on social media. “It’s something else to really see it and feel it.”
Inflation continues to rise, recession will follow? Experts say ‘smash the trapdoor’
Mummy of woolly mammoth calf discovered by gold miners in Yukon
The actor told Zelenskyy that he had just visited Irpin, a city close to Kyiv in northern Ukraine.
According to a press release from the presidential office, Stiller visited Irpin to speak with survivors of the occupation.
UNHCR also released a statement, saying the trip to Irpin would “help Mr. Stiller inform of the need to continue and increase support for humanitarian operations in Ukraine.”
The UNHCR statement said Stiller also visited Makariv, to visit families whose homes were destroyed.
“What you see in Irpin is certainly appalling,” Zelenskyy insists. “But it is even worse just to imagine what is happening in the settlements that are still temporarily occupied in the east.”
Ukrainians fleeing war may want to stay in Calgary permanently as conflict could ‘last for years’
After his meeting with Zelenskyy, Stiller tweeted about World Refugee Day. The actor wrote that it was an “honor” to meet the president “in solidarity with those forced to flee in Ukraine and around the world, and more concerned with the humanitarian situation.”
While in Ukraine, Stiller also met the new US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink. On Twitter, Brink wrote that Stiller’s visit “brings much-needed attention to humanitarian needs during the largest and fastest humanitarian crisis in recent memory.”
Earlier this week, Stiller also visited Poland. There, he meets refugees forced to flee to a neighboring country. According to UNHCR, Stiller met a mother and her three children who had fled Kharkiv two months ago.
“Shortly after she and her children fled, her father was killed in her hometown of Kharkiv after a bomb fell on her parents’ apartment building,” the statement read. “The family wanted to return to their home in Ukraine, but the neighborhood where they came from was devastated by war.”
Zelenskky of Ukraine posts Father’s Day message, emphasizes importance of family in wartime
Stiller is not the only celebrity to visit Ukraine. In April, Angelina Jolie visited the country to meet children affected by the war. Sean Penn also visited Ukraine to make a documentary about the Russian invasion.
According to the United Nations, since the Russian invasion in February, more than 12 million Ukrainian residents have been displaced from their homes. More than five million Ukrainian refugees have been recorded in Europe, while another seven million are believed to be internally displaced.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.