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The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has demanded that Serbian-born actor Milos Bikovic be axed from HBO’s award-winning series ‘The White Lotus’ over his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A dark comedy-drama set in a fictional resort chain, ‘The White Lotus’ has won 14 Emmy awards and two Golden Globes. Bikovic’s role in the show’s third season was announced earlier this month by HBO.

“Milos Bikovic, Serbian actor who has been supporting Russia since the start of the full-scale invasion, is now set to star in HBO’s The White Lotus Season 3,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday. “@HBO, is it all right for you to work with a person who supports genocide & violates international law?”

Bikovic has never made any statements in support of genocide, nor is he suspected of violating international law. 

The 36-year-old actor has starred in a number of Russian productions, and is an outspoken admirer of Russian culture. In 2018, Putin awarded Bikovic the Pushkin Medal for his contributions to Russian art and culture, and Bikovic was granted Russian citizenship by presidential decree in 2021. 

“Russia has accepted me since my first time here,” he said upon receiving his Russian passport. “I feel at home here. I have inherited Russian values and they resonate with mine.”

Bikovic was labeled an “enemy of Ukraine” and had his name added to the notorious Mirotvorets (‘Peacemaker’) database in 2019, he told Serbian media at the time. This website, reportedly run by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, lists enemies of the state and marks them as “liquidated” in the event of their death. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) is widely believed to be behind the deaths of multiple people on the database.

Prior to his inclusion in the list, Bikovic had filmed in Crimea, which Ukraine claims as its own territory.

For nearly two years, Kiev has lobbied Western nations to ban or otherwise restrict Russian culture. Ukraine’s foreign ministry and culture ministry have complained when Russian opera singers perform in Germany, asked Spotify to pull songs by Russian artists, and called on Western societies to boycott long-dead icons of Russian culture, such as 19th-century composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. 

As of Thursday evening, HBO has not responded to the ministry’s post.

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