Arnold Schwarzenegger released an emotional video Thursday addressed to the people of Russia.
The 74-year-old actor and former California governor largely focused on stating the basic facts of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, complete with subtitles, in an attempt to punch through Russian state propaganda.
“I’m sending this message to various different channels to reach my dear Russian friends and the Russian soldiers serving in Ukraine,” Schwarzenegger said in a nine-minute address embedded below. “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.”
Schwarzenegger details how the fighting was instigated by Russia in February, explaining that the invasion has been declared illegal by 141 countries, that many civilian buildings (such as a maternity hospital) have been bombed, that there’s now a massive refugee crisis and that thousands of Russian soldiers have died.
“The world has turned against Russia because of its actions in Ukraine,” he said. “The destruction that Russian bombs are raining down on innocent civilians has so outraged the world that the strongest global economic sanctions ever taken have been imposed on your country. … This is not the war to defend Russia like your grandfather or your great-grandfather fought. This is an illegal war!”
In a rarity for the Austria-born actor, Schwarzenegger also candidly invoked his father’s dark history as a Nazi sergeant when addressing the Russian government’s false claims that its troops are engaged in the “de-nazification” of Ukraine.
“[My father] was injured at Leningrad, and the Nazi army he was part of did vicious harm to the great city and to its brave people,” he said. “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.”
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 also spoke about his admiration for Russian Olympic weightlifter Yuri Petrovich Vlasov — who helped inspire him to begin weight training as a teen — meeting Russian fans, and filming 1988’s Red Heat in Moscow.
In addition, the actor also addressed Putin himself: “To those in power in the Kremlin, let me just ask you: 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 closed with a message to Russian protesters who have risked imprisonment to take to the streets to voice opposition to the war in Ukraine.
“The world has seen your bravery,” he said. “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.”