Russian Director Nikita Mikhalkov: Opponents of Russian Annexation of Crimea Are "the Enemy"

Comments come as the Oscar-winning director attends premiere of his new film "Sunset" in Sevastopol.

Oscar-winning Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov used the premiere of his new film at a theater in Crimea to reiterate his support for the Kremlin's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula earlier this year.

Mikhalkov, a friend and supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin, chose theaters in the Crimean cities of Sevastopol and Simferopol for the first screenings of Sunstroke, a lavish costume drama set a century ago during the Russian civil war.

Speaking Wednesday at a red-carpet event at the Lunacharsky Academic Russian Drama Theater in the port city of Sevastopol, Mikhalkov, who won an Oscar in 1995 for Burnt by the Sun, set during Stalin's times, said: "Anyone who says Crimea is not Russian is the enemy."

The director has a reputation for filming lavish historical epics, although his last film produced four years ago, a two-part sequel to Burnt by the Sun set during World War II, was a major flop at the Russian box office.

Following a speech dedicated to the history of the Russian Empire, Mikhalkov joined a Cossack choir in singing the Tsarist-era imperial Russian national anthem, although media reports suggest few, if any, members of the audience knew the words or even the tune.

Mikhalkov said that opening the film in two Crimean cities was appropriate as much of the action takes place in a prisoner-of-war camp run by the Bolsheviks for captured "White" officers — members of the anti-Communist forces that fought for control of Russian between the Communist "October Revolution" of 1917 and 1922 when they were finally defeated.

Russian media reports say there was a degree more political support for opening the film in Crimea: Mikhalkov and a press pool were flown from Moscow to Crimea in a Russian-made Tu-154 passenger jet chartered by the Russian Ministry of Defense.