Arnold Schwarzenegger is speaking out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, making a passionate plea to Russia’s government, military and citizens to end the violence.
Speaking in a nine-minute video shared Thursday to social media, the former governor of California shared his appreciation of the people of Russia and aimed to dispel misinformation to Russian citizens and military members by sharing “the truth” of why Russia invaded Ukraine.
“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 and what is happening there. No one likes to hear something critical of their government, I understand that. But as a longtime friend of the Russian people, I hope that you will hear what I have to say.”
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The former bodybuilder and actor cited one of his childhood idols as an example of his love for Russian people: Yuri Petrovich Vlasov, a champion weighlifter from Russia. Schwarzenegger recalled his father, a well-known member of the Nazi party who served in World War II, getting angry when he hung a picture of Vlasov in his room.
“My father told me to take down the picture and to find a German or Austrian hero,” he said. “But I did not take down the photograph, because it didn’t matter to me what flag Yuri Vlasov carried.”
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Schwarzenegger shot down claims from the Russian government that the purpose of their invasion was to “denazify Ukraine,” and shared heartbreaking images and video of buildings that had been bombed, refugees packed into crowded rooms, and families saying emotional goodbyes before separating.
“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 to President Putin, I say: You started this war. You are leading this war. You can stop this war.”
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Schwarzenegger concluded: “To all of the Russians who have been protesting in the streets against the invasion of Ukraine: the world has seen your bravery. “We know 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.”
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Russia’s attack on Ukraine began in the pre-dawn hours of Moscow on Feb. 24 and international backlash followed swiftly in the form of sanctions by the United States and a host of other countries. More than 2.8 million Ukrainians have left their country to seek asylum in neighboring countries as of Monday.
Contributing: Rasha Ali