Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California in the United States, has released an emotional video addressing the Russian people, arguing they are being fed misinformation about the war in Ukraine, and appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the attack.
Russia has described its actions as a “special military operation” to “demilitarise and “de-Nazify” Ukraine – a claim rejected by Ukraine and its allies as a groundless justification for war.
In the nine-minute video posted on Twitter on Thursday, Schwarzenegger, 74, said the Kremlin was intentionally lying to Russians over the aims of the invasion.
“I’m speaking to you today because there are things that are going on in the world that have been kept from you, terrible things that you should know about. Let me tell you the truth about the war in Ukraine,” the Hollywood star said.
The Austrian-born former bodybuilding champion, whose film Red Heat was the first US movie filmed in Moscow’s Red Square, spoke of his affection for the Russian people and meeting his idol, Russian weightlifter Yuri Vlasov, when he was 14 years old.
“The strength and the heart of the Russian people have always inspired me,” he said. “That is why I hope that you will let me tell you the truth about the war in Ukraine.
“I know that your government has told you that this is a war to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine,” he said. “This is not true. Those in power in the Kremlin started this war. This is not the Russian people’s war.”
I love the Russian people. That is why I have to tell you the truth. Please watch and share. pic.twitter.com/6gyVRhgpFV
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) March 17, 2022
Schwarzenegger said “the world has turned against Russia because of its actions in Ukraine – whole city blocks have been flattened by Russian artillery and bombs, including a children’s hospital and a maternity hospital.
“Because of its brutality, Russia is now isolated from the society of nations,” he said, referring to a United Nations General Assembly vote in which 141 nations voted to reprimand Russia for invading Ukraine.
“The Russian government has lied not only to its citizens but also to its soldiers … Some were told that the Ukrainian people would greet them like heroes. Some were told that they [were] simply going on exercises – they didn’t even know that they were going into war,” Schwarzenegger, who was California governor from 2003 to 2011, said.
“And some were told that they were there to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine. None of this was true. Russian soldiers have faced fierce resistance from the Ukrainians who want to protect their families,” he added.
In an appeal to Russian troops, Schwarzenegger recalled the wounds suffered by his father while fighting for the Nazis in Russia during World War II.
“He was broken physically and mentally and lived the rest of his life in pain,” he said. “To the Russian troops listening to this broadcast … I don’t want you to be broken like my father.
“This is not the war to defend Russia that your grandfathers or your great-grandfathers fought,” he said. “This is an illegal war. Your lives, your limbs, your futures have been sacrificed for a senseless war condemned by the entire world.”
Addressing Putin directly, Schwarzenegger said: “You started this war. You are leading this war. You can stop this war.”
The invasion has ravaged Ukrainian cities and sent more than three million refugees fleeing abroad.
Schwarzenegger asked Russians to spread the word about the “human catastrophe” and told Russian anti-war protesters the world was watching them.
“The world has seen your bravery. We know you have suffered the consequences of your courage,” he said.
“You are my new heroes. You have the strength of Yuri Petrovich Vlasov. You have the true heart of Russia.”