Arnold Schwarzenegger posted a heartfelt nine-minute video message on Twitter in an attempt to punch through propaganda and speak directly to the Russian people about the war in Ukraine. The legendary bodybuilder, action star and former California governor said he wanted his message to reach “my dear Russian friends.”
“I’m speaking to you today because there are things that are being kept from you,” he said. “Terrible things that you should know about.”
He prefaced his condemnation of the Russian government’s actions by speaking of his love and admiration for the Russian people — starting with his childhood hero, the weightlifting champion Yuri Petrovich Vlasov.
He said his father urged him to find a different hero. “We argued back and forth,” Schwarzenegger said. “He didn’t like Russians because of his experience in World War II.” He spoke of his father’s time fighting for the Nazis in Leningrad during the war — which he also raised in a powerful video he posted after the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Schwarzenegger’s comments, subtitled on screen in both Russian and English, then turned to focus on the grim reality of the situation in Ukraine, where deadly bombardments have forced 3 million Ukrainians to flee their homes.
He asked Russian President Vladimir Putin, “Why would you sacrifice these young men for your own ambition? … To President Putin, I say: You started this war. You are leading this war. You can stop this war.”
Schwarzenegger said the Russian government’s claim that it’s attempting to “de-Nazify” Ukraine was completely untrue, pointing out that Ukraine’s president, Volodymir Zelenskyy, is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust.
“The Russian government has lied not only to its citizens but to its soldiers,” he said, before returning to the story of his father.
“When my father arrived in Leningrad, he was all pumped up on the lies of his government. When he left Leningrad, he was broken — physically and mentally. He lived the rest of his life in pain — pain from a broken back, pain from the shrapnel that always reminded him of those terrible years and pain from the guilt that he felt.”
“To the Russian soldiers listening to this broadcast: You already know much of the truth that I’m speaking. You’ve seen it in your own eyes. I don’t want you to be broken like my father,” he said.
He ended the video by speaking to Russians who have protested their country’s involvement in Ukraine.
“We know that you’ve suffered the consequences of your courage. You have been arrested, you’ve been jailed and you’ve been beaten. You are my new heroes. You have the strength of Yuri Petrovich Vlasov. You have the true heart of Russia.”