Oscar-Winning Russian Director Warned About Ukraine Visit

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Nikita Mikhalkov

Ukrainian authorities say they will take action should Nikita Mikhalkov use rebel-controlled border posts to visit the country.

Oscar-winning Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov has been warned by Ukrainian security services that he will face consequences should he use an illegal border-crossing to enter rebel-held territory in the country's eastern conflict zone.

Mikhalkov, a vocal supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea and the rebels in eastern Ukraine, intends to show his latest film, Sunstroke, in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic in May, according to a report by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

The $21 million production, part of a series of films examining key moments in Russia's 20th century history that Mikhalkov has periodically returned to since he made 1994's Oscar-winning Burnt by the Sun, is set in Crimea during the 1920 civil war that followed the Bolshevik revolution.

The film, which opened in Moscow in the fall, has not been released internationally and its sole overseas screening was in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, in October.

But Ukraine's SBU security service has warned Mikhalkov that it will take "appropriate action" if he enters the Luhansk region, which borders Russia, through rebel-held control points. Ukrainian government forces control the northern part of Luhansk region, a mainly Ukrainian-speaking province, and have insisted that its border may only be crossed at points controlled by their own authorities.

"Entry through those areas of the border [with Russia] that is now under the control of militants in the Luhanks and Donetsk regions, constitutes illegal entry," the SBU's press service told Ukrainian news site Apostrof, which was established by journalists from the Ukrainian edition of Russia's business daily Kommersant after it was closed down in April 2014.

"If Mikhalkov visits Luhansk illegally, we shall take appropriate action."

A number of Russian actors and artists have been criticized by Ukrainian authorities for performing in rebel-held territories, including singer and lawmaker Joseph Kobzon.

Dubbed "Russia's Frank Sinatra" for his singing style and alleged links to the mafia, Kobzon has long been banned from entering the U.S and earlier this month was added to the European Union's list of those sanctioned over their support for Russia's actions in the Crimea.

Separately, Russia's Union of Cinematographers, which Mikhalkov heads, said it was planning to sign an agreement with rebel authorities in Luhansk and may open a branch in the region.

Last week Mihalkov's Moscow-based production company TriTe announced plans to shoot Russia's most expensive sports drama ever, telling the story of the famed Olympic clash between the U.S and Soviet basketball teams in 1972.

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