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Why have actors Ben Stiller and Sean Penn been permanently banned from Russia?

The two film stars become the latest Americans to be sanctioned by the Kremlin, following the likes of Morgan Freeman and Mark Zuckerberg.

Ben Stiller and Sean Penn permanently banned from Russia

This week the Russia government has added another batch of prominent and influential Americans to the sanctions list, a response to the United States’ decision to cut ties after the invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

The latest list, announced Monday 5 September, included actors Sean Penn and Ben Stiller, along with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and several American senators: Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Rick Scott of Florida, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Both Penn and Stiller have spoken out against the attack on Ukraine and have been personally sanctioned by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Stiller is currently a goodwill ambassador for the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees and met with Zelenskyy in June. The 56-year-old wrote on social media recently: “Nobody chooses to flee their homes. Seeking safety is a right and it needs to be upheld for every person.”

Likewise Penn has been in contact with the Ukrainian leader in recent months and was actually in the country when Russia first launched the invasion back in February. He had been meeting with Zelenskyy the day before the attack started.

“We met with [Zelenskyy], a man in a suit, and the next morning the Russians invaded. We went back. We were with President Zelenskyy and waited for him at a meeting point. And the next time I saw him, he was in camos and the world had changed,” Penn said.

Which other Americans have been banned from Russia?

The Russia government has made little secret of the fact that the sanctioning of prominent Americans is a direct response to the measures imposed by the West on Kremlin associates. In a statement released Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the bans were “based on the principle of reciprocity.”

“In response to the ever-expanding personal sanctions by the Biden Administration against Russian citizens, against another group of persons from among members of the U.S. Congress, high-ranking officials, representatives of the business and expert communities, as well as cultural figures (25 people), a ban on entry into the Russian Federation on a permanent basis,” the statement read.

This latest batch of sanctioned individuals is just the latest wave of measures from the Kremlin. Back in May Russia released a list of 963 Americans banned from the country, a direct response to so-called hostile US actions.

That list included Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and CIA head William Burns. From the UK, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, current PM Liz Truss and several other government ministers are banned from entering Russia.

Away from the politicians, actor Morgan Freeman, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and CNN correspondent Nick Paton Walsh have all been banned from the country. Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of animation studio DreamWorks, is also on the sanctions list.


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