Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recorded a searing, inspiring, nine-minute message to the Russian people, soldiers and Vladimir Putin himself in which he aims to spread the truth about the war in Ukraine and combat the Russian government’s disinformation campaign.
“I’m sending this message through various different channels to reach my dear Russian friends and the Russian soldiers serving in Ukraine,” the Austrian-American’s message begins. “I’m speaking to you today because there are things that are going on in the world that are being kept from you, terrible things that you should know about.”
Schwarzenegger’s video message opens with him detailing his long-held reverence for the Russian people, and how his father – a member of the Nazi party – argued with him as a boy to take down a picture of Russian weightlifting champion Yuri Petrovich Vlasov.
“My father told me to take down that picture and to find a German or Austrian hero,” Schwarzenegger says. “He got really angry, and we argued back and forth. He didn’t like Russians because of his experience in the Second World War. You see, he was injured at Leningrad, where the Nazi army that he was part of did vicious harm to the great city and to its brave people.”
The ”Terminator” actor then explained how he hopes his respect for the Russian people would allow them to sincerely hear his message. “Ever since I was 14 years old, I’ve had nothing but affections and respect for the people of Russia. The strength and the heart of the Russian people have always inspired me. That is why I hope that you will let me tell you the truth about the war in Ukraine and what is happening there.”
In a move meant to remove perceived bias, Schwarzenegger drew a clear line of comparison between Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the January 6 insurrection in the U.S. “I speak with the same heartfelt concern as I spoke to the American people when there was an attempted insurrection on January 6 last year when a wild crowd was storming the U.S. Capitol trying to overthrow our government. There are moments like this that are so wrong and then we have to speak up. It is exactly the same with your government.”
He then began picking apart Russia’s lies about the war in Ukraine. “I know that your government has told you that this is a war to denazify Ukraine. Denazify Ukraine? This is not true. Ukraine is a country with a Jewish president. A Jewish president, I might add, whose father’s three brothers were all murdered by the Nazis. You see, Ukraine did not start this war. Neither did nationalists or Nazis. Those in power in the Kremlin started this war. This is not the Russian People’s War.”
Schwarzenegger then revealed the truth about how the war is going, noting that all but four countries in the United Nations voted to condemn Russia’s actions. “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. Three million Ukrainian refugees, mainly women, children and the elderly, fled their country. And many more are trying to seek to get out. It is a humanitarian crisis.”
He noted that because of its actions, Russia has been isolated from the rest of the world, and detailed how the Russian people are being harmed.
“You’re also not being told the truth about the consequences of this war on Russia itself. I regret to tell you that thousands of Russian soldiers have been killed. They have been caught between Ukrainians fighting for their homeland and the Russian leadership fighting for conquest. Massive amounts of Russian equipment have been destroyed or abandoned. The destruction that Russian bombs are raining down upon innocent civilians has so outraged the world that the strongest global economic sanctions ever taken have been imposed on your country. Those who don’t deserve it on both sides of the war will suffer.”
Schwarzenegger also explained how even the Russian soldiers being sent to Ukraine are being lied to. “The Russian government has lied not only to its citizens but to its soldiers. Some of the soldiers were told they were going to fight Nazis. Some were told that the Ukrainian people would greet them like heroes. And some were told that they were simply going on exercises – they didn’t even know that they were going into war. And some were told that they were there to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine. None of this is true. The fact is that Russian soldiers have faced fierce resistance from the Ukrainians who want to protect their families and their country.”
Bringing it back to the story of his own father, Schwarzenegger spoke from experience about how a war like this can ruin soldiers’ lives. “When my father arrived in Leningrad, he was all pumped up on the lies of his government. And 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 these terrible years, and pain from the guilt that he felt.”
Schwarzenegger then directly addressed the soldiers he hopes are listening to the broadcast: “To the Russian soldiers listening to this broadcast, you already know much of the truth that I’ve been speaking. You have seen it with your own eyes. 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. This is an illegal war. Your lives, your limbs, your futures are being sacrificed for a senseless war being condemned by the entire world.”
And then, to those in positions of power: “Now to those in power in the Kremlin, let me just ask you: Why would you sacrifice these young men for your own ambitions? To the soldiers who are listening to this: Remember that 11 million Russians have family connections to Ukraine, so every bullet you shoot, you shoot a brother or a sister.”
And finally, to Putin himself: “I urge the Russian people and the Russian soldiers in Ukraine to understand the propaganda and the disinformation that you’re being told. I ask you to help me spread the truth. Let your fellow Russians know the human catastrophe that is happening in Ukraine. And to President Putin I say: You started this war. You are leading this war. You can stop this war.”
Schwarzenegger ended his message with a note to the Russian people who have been protesting the war at great risk to their own lives. “The world has seen your bravery. We know that you have suffered the consequences of your courage. You have been arrested, you have been jailed and you have been beaten. You are my new heroes. You have the true heart of Russia.”
Watch the full video message above.