Ukraine Criticizes HBO, Saying New ‘White Lotus’ Actor Supports War

Ukraine’s foreign ministry criticized HBO this week after Milos Bikovic was cast in the third season of “The White Lotus,” saying without evidence that the Serbian actor had supported Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

HBO announced on Jan. 12 that Bikovic, 36, would be joining the dark comedy about wealthy tourists at island resorts. On Wednesday, the foreign ministry of Ukraine made the accusations against Bikovic on social media, writing, “HBO, is it all right for you to work with a person who supports genocide & violates international law?”

Bikovic was awarded the Pushkin Medal, which honors contributions to Russian arts and culture, by President Vladimir V. Putin in 2018 and received Russian citizenship by presidential decree in 2021.

In February 2022, the day after the invasion began, Bikovic said on Instagram that he wished the war had not happened. “War and bloodshed on any side reminds us of how far humanity is from global unity and love,” he wrote in Russian and Serbian. “God save the lives of all those who are now in danger!”

Ukraine’s foreign ministry and Bikovic did not respond to requests for comment. An HBO spokesman said questions should be directed to Bikovic’s representatives.

President Biden has called Russia’s invasion genocide, and The New York Times has collected evidence of brutalities by Russia, including the willful killing of noncombatants.

A 79-second video that Ukraine’s foreign ministry posted on social media interspersed scenes from “The White Lotus” with clips of Bikovic accepting the award from Putin and previous comments it said the actor had made about Russia. In a voice-over, it claimed that Bikovic was “the Kremlin’s foreign mouthpiece.”

During Bikovic’s acceptance speech for the Pushkin Medal, he emphasized unity between Russia and Serbia. “What a joy for Russians and Serbs in our homeland because we have the same worldview,” he said in Russian.

Ukraine barred Bikovic from entering the country in 2019 for what it called national security reasons. At the time, he told a Serbian publication that “from the human and poetic point of view the situation is absurd and interesting.”

Before he was cast in “The White Lotus,” Bikovic acted in movies including “South Wind,” which follows a gang member in Belgrade; “Sunstroke,” about military officers remembering the collapse of the Russian Empire; “Ice,” in which he plays a figure skater; and “The Balkan Line,” about a military operation during the Kosovo war.

Season 3 of “The White Lotus” is set to begin production in Thailand next month and is scheduled to air in 2025. It will feature Walton Goggins, Carrie Coon, Parker Posey and the returning cast member Natasha Rothwell.

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