Why Ukraine Has Condemned a White Lotus Casting Decision

Serbian actor and member of the jury Miloš Biković attends the closing ceremony of the 43rd Moscow International Film Festival at the Rossiya Theatre in Moscow on April 29, 2021. Credit - Sefa Karacan—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

As fans gear up for the third season of Emmy Award-winning HBO series The White Lotus, Ukraine’s foreign ministry has criticized the television network over a casting decision.

Earlier this month, 36-year-old Serbian actor Miloš Biković was revealed as part of the cast of Mike White’s hit drama, which will be set in Thailand for its latest installment airing in 2025.

“Miloš Biković, 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,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry wrote on X. “@HBO, is it all right for you to work with a person who supports genocide & violates international law?” it added.

The ministry also posted an image of Biković on Instagram that accuses him of being a “genocide supporter.”

Ukraine had previous banned Biković from entering the country in 2019 due to national security reasons, AFP reported. That decision came a year after he was awarded the Pushkin medal, one of Russia’s top cultural awards, by President Vladimir Putin.

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Biković obtained Russian citizenship in 2021 by presidential decree. “It is a great honour to say today: Russia is my homeland!” Biković wrote on Instagram at the time. “I have been actively participating in Russian cultural life for more than 7 years. For me it’s a blessing and the source of happiness.”

Biković has starred in a number of Serbian and Russian films and TV shows over the past two decades, but The White Lotus will be his first U.S. production. The actor was announced alongside co-stars Christian Friedel, Morgana O’Reilly, Lek Patravadi, and Shalini Peiris.

Ukraine has claimed that Biković starred in productions filmed in Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

(Representatives for Biković and Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.)

“The people of Crimea joined Russia themselves through a referendum,” Biković said, according to a video published by United24, a Ukrainian government platform.

In a March 2014 referendum, 97% voted in favor of Crimea joining mainland Russia. Many Crimeans boycotted the vote and the U.S. and E.U. condemned it as illegitimate.

Write to Armani Syed at