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Zelensky Adviser Hits Out at Oscars Over Ukraine Omission

Newsweek 3/13/2023 Brendan Cole
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gives a press conference following talks with United Nations Secretary-General in Kyiv on March 8, 2023. © SERGEI SUPINSKY/Getty Images Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gives a press conference following talks with United Nations Secretary-General in Kyiv on March 8, 2023.

Ukraine's presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak has criticized Academy Awards organizers for not allowing Volodymyr Zelensky to address the ceremony in which a film featuring Russia's most prominent critic was honored.

The film Navalny, which explores the plot to kill Russian anti-corruption campaigner Alexey Navalny, took the prize for best documentary feature during Sunday's ceremony.

An outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine, Navalny is serving a nine-year term at a maximum-security prison east of Moscow in what his supporters say are jumped-up charges.

His family appeared at the ceremony and accepted the award for the film, directed by Canadian director Daniel Roe, which has put the case of the Kremlin critic back into the spotlight as he languishes in jail.

But Podolyak condemned the decision for the second year running not to allow the Ukrainian president to give a virtual address at the 95th Oscars, especially when giving plaudits to an opponent of the regime which had started the war still raging.


"If #Oscar is outside of politics how should we understand the documentary manifesto Navalny where internal Russian politics is overflowing?" Podolyak tweeted on Monday.

"If Oscar is out of the context of the war in Ukraine & the mass genocide of Ukrainians, why do you constantly talk about humanism & justice?" he added.

Podolyak had said in an interview with German outlet Bild that if the World War I drama All Quiet on the Western Front can get an Oscar at a ceremony Zelensky can't address, then "one will not be able to find a better example of hypocrisy" within the film industry.

"The word ridiculous would not be enough," he said, "if you award a movie about a war and you do not recognize that someone you drink don't want to hear a real story about a war that is happening here. Now, something is wrong with you guys."

Others took to Twitter to complain about the omission of Zelensky suggesting that if it was done to remain apolitical, then this amounted to hypocrisy.

Journalist Danylo Mokryk tweeted: "No, Mr. Zelensky, you can't speak at the Oscars, that's politics. But we'll give an Oscar to "Navalny", that's not politics.

"And Navalny's wife will speak, that's also not politics. But she won't mention her country's invasion of Ukraine, because... Yeah, you got it."

Russian chess champion and Putin opponent Garry Kasparov accused Hollywood of having "a long history of selling out to dictators," adding "they love causes, unless they threaten the bottom line."

San Francisco Standard journalist Matthew Kupfer wrote: "If the Academy rejected an Oscars address by Zelensky because it would be 'political,' but had Navalny's family and this guy, I don't think they know what political means."

Ukrainian lawyer Julia Kril wrote that 'Navalny winning while not giving Zelensky "with just a few minutes to speak about Russia's genocidal war against Ukraine clearly demonstrates how screwed up, morally corrupt, and unfair this world is."

Newsweek has contacted the Academy Awards for comment.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin responded to the honor given to the makers of the film about its biggest critic.

"I dare to assume that there is a certain...politicization," of the ceremony, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to state news agency Tass.

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