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Sean Penn Describes Witnessing the Devastating ‘New Reality’ for the People in Ukraine

The actor’s group CORE is helping with relief efforts following Russia’s unprovoked invasion

After witnessing the devastation in Ukraine and sharing on Twitter that he “walked miles to the Polish border” to safety, Sean Penn sat down for an interview with CNN on Friday evening to appeal to viewers for help.

Appearing pale, exhausted and frustrated, the Oscar-winning actor, activist and director told Anderson Cooper his nonprofit group, Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), is doing what it can to assist the people in Ukraine as Russia continues its assault.

“We’re distributing hygiene kits. We’re giving cash assistance and water to refugees as they come through,” he said. “We’re working now to bring our staff into the other side as well, because you really have two kinds of struggles with the refugees. One is trying to get out of the country, and the other, figuring out what to do.”

Penn added that many of the refugees that CORE staff encountered had lost everything.

“A lot of the people, plenty of them well-to-do, left their jobs and bank accounts behind, and so this is their new reality,” he continued. “We need assistance with CORE. We’ve never been very good at getting on the media front, which is ironic, given that I’m supposed to help do that when it comes to the cash assistance that CORE needs to help people but I definitely want to ask people to help us out.”

Penn then urged “Anderson Cooper 360” viewers to donate what they can. [Those wanting to help can find details on CORE’s website.]

The “Mystic River” actor has been filming a documentary for Vice Studios about the Russian invasion, a spokesperson for Vice Studios confirmed to TheWrap last week.

Penn told Anderson Cooper he was “impressed and moved” after speaking with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Meeting with president Zelenskyy the day before the invasion and then meeting with him again on the day of the invasion, I don’t know if he knew he was born for this, but it was clear that I was in the presence of something… that was new to the modern world in terms of courage and dignity and love,” Penn explained. “This is an extraordinary moment. I was impressed and moved by him and terrified for him and for Ukraine.”

Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion has created the largest humanitarian disaster that Europe has seen in decades. More than 874,000 people have fled Ukraine, according to data from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

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