The Star Wars actor Mark Hamill has joined President Zelensky to raise money for drones to fight Russia, which the actor compared to the “evil empire” from the films.
Hamill was named an ambassador for United24, the Ukrainian government’s fundraising platform, and will focus his attention on promoting the Army of Drones project, according to a press release from Zelensky’s office. The initiative centres on the procurement, repair and replacement of drones as well as pilot training.
The announcement came before a Russian missile was reported to have hit a convoy of civilian vehicles, killing 23 people and wounding 28 in the central city of Zaporizhzhya.
“In this long and unequal fight, Ukraine needs continuous additional support. That’s why I was honoured President Zelensky asked me to become an ambassador for the Army of Drones,” Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, said in a statement. “I know for certain that Ukrainians need drones to protect their land, their freedom and the values of the entire democratic world. Right now is the best time for everyone to come together and help Ukraine stand up in this war with the evil empire.”
In a statement thanking Hamill for his support, Zelensky said: “The light will win over darkness. I believe in this, our people believe in this. Thank you for taking on this difficult mission of being the first ambassador to help Ukraine raise funds for the Army of Drones to support our defenders. It is really important!”
Hamill, 71, is among an expanding list of celebrities who have lent their support to United24, which Zelensky launched in May. The website is reported to have raised nearly $188 million in donations, including a recent $5 million contribution from the Pfizer Foundation to support Ukraine’s medical needs.
Last week Barbra Streisand announced that she would also serve as an ambassador, hailing the “capability and courage” of the Ukrainian people as an “inspiration for all those worldwide who promote democracy and fight authoritarianism”.
Streisand, 80, is also working with the 24,000 Friends of Ukraine campaign, aimed at reaching 24,000 subscribers to send monthly donations of $24 towards medical aid for Ukrainians. Andriy Shevchenko, the Ukrainian footballer, Elina Svitolina, the Ukrainian tennis player, the Hollywood actor Liev Schreiber and the American band Imagine Dragons are also ambassadors for the initiative.
Supporting Ukraine can have consequences for celebrities: Sean Penn and Ben Stiller were blacklisted by the Russian government after visiting Zelensky in Kyiv and condemning Russia’s invasion.