White Lotus cuts Miloš Bekovic after Ukraine terminated ties with Putin

HBO has removed Miloš Pekovic from the cast of the third season of The White Lotus after a summons from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry — a move that Pekovic says “could create a disturbing precedent that overshadows the very essence of artistic freedom.”

“We have decided to part ways with Miloš Pekovic and the role will be recast,” an HBO spokesperson said in a statement.

Pekovic's statement in response read: “Today, a targeted campaign has been unleashed against me, apparently as an external maneuver to influence decisions that could create a disturbing precedent that overshadows the essence of artistic freedom. The result of such a narrative is the triumph of absurdity and the defeat of art.”

On January 24, The Office of Foreign Affairs has published a post on X (formerly Twitter) saying that the Serbian actor and Russian citizen “has been supporting Russia since the beginning of the large-scale invasion.” The office then contacted HBO directly, saying: “Is it appropriate for you to work with someone who supports genocide and violates international law?” A video accompanying the post shows Pekovic receiving the Medal of Honor from Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018 and calls the actor “the Kremlin's spokesman abroad.”

Bekovich has held Russian citizenship since 2021. Besides referring to himself as an “active member of Russian society” and attending government-hosted panel discussions, he has also collaborated with supporters of the invasion within the Russian entertainment industry, such as director Nikita. Mikhalkov. According to an interview he gave to the Russian newspaper The Telegraph in 2019, he was banned from entering Ukraine.

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Pekovic was announced to be joining “The White Lotus” on January 12. His acting credits include the Russian film “Serf” and the Serbian film “South Wind”.

Read Pekovic's full statement below.

I grew up in a war-torn country. When I was 11 years old, I endured days and nights in bomb shelters while my country and hometown were bombed. I could not wish such devastation on anyone.

There are more and more active conflicts in the whole world. Every one is different. Every one is heartbreaking. I hope they all stop and that the principles of love prevail.

Today, a targeted campaign has been unleashed against me, apparently as an outside maneuver to influence decisions that could create a disturbing precedent that overshadows the very essence of artistic freedom. The result of such a narrative is the triumph of absurdity and the defeat of art.

I was honored to have been chosen to be a part of White Lotus, a TV series I have great respect for and with my colleagues I greatly respect. But my participation is not possible for reasons outside the scope of art, and I will not bow to any narrative that seeks to compromise my integrity.

I would like to thank everyone who stood by me. I wish my colleagues great success in creating the next season.

Regardless of everything, I strongly believe that art can heal. I believe it can help humanity unite. My beliefs and devotion to art will remain unchanged.

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