Actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger is leveraging his popularity in Russia to help squash disinformation about the war in Ukraine. The former governor of California published a nine-minute video where he gave a heartfelt plea for the Russian people to see through the propaganda the Kremlin is feeding them about Ukraine. Currently, the video has been viewed over 35 million times on Twitter and is also published on Telegram, a popular messaging app in Russia.
Schwarzenegger opens the video by sharing his love and affection for Russia and its people, which started at a young age thanks to his admiration for Russian bodybuilder Yury Petrovich Vlasov. He then shares his personal encounters with Russians, reminding them that his 1988 film Red Heat was the first American film shot in Moscow's Red Square. After making it clear that he's addressing them not with condemnation, but with concern, Schwarzenegger opens up about the realities of the war.
“I'm speaking to you today because there are things going on in the world that are being kept from you, terrible things that you should know about,” he shares. The rest of the statement, which was written by Schwarzenegger and his team and fact-checked by retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, details many of the atrocities that are happening in Ukraine. As video footage from Ukraine plays, he mentions the bombing of children's and maternity hospitals, as well as the flood of refugees fleeing Ukraine.
He touches on how the war, and the world's reaction to it, will have direct ramifications on the Russian people. “One hundred forty-one nations at the United Nations voted that Russia was the aggressor and called for it to remove its troops immediately,” Schwarzenegger states. “Only four countries in the entire world voted with Russia. That is a fact. The world has turned against Russia because of its actions in Ukraine.” In plain terms, he makes it known that “those who don’t deserve it on both sides of the war will suffer.”
Schwarzenegger, whose Twitter is one of the few accounts followed by the Russian and English Kremlin accounts, then mentions the toll that the war will have on Russian soldiers. Drawing parallels with his own father, who fought with the Nazi army during World War II and came home “broken physically and mentally”, the actor warns of the long-term repercussions for these soldiers.
“I don’t want you to be broken like my father. This is not a war to defend Russia like your grandfathers and your great-grandfathers fought. This is an illegal war. Your lives, your limbs, and your futures are being sacrificed for a senseless war, condemned by the entire world.”
In closing, he asks Russians to try and understand the propaganda they are being fed and also sends his admiration for those Russians who are bravely protesting the war.
The Kremlin initially ignored the video, but now that it's gained traction on Russian social media, state media is beginning to comment. The host of Kremlin TV's Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovievon called the former bodybuilder, “the cover page of American imperialism and colonialism,” and fumed that “he, in California, will tell us, who live here… the truth?!”
On the flip side, his message has been praised by opposition politician Lev Schlossberg who, according to the BBC, wrote on Telegram that Schwarzenegger's video has been filmed “with respect towards us, Russian people.” He added that “Arnold Schwarzenegger has a unique ability to talk to anyone with persuasion, respect and on equal terms. Wits, power, and justice. Have a listen. Think about it. Understand.”
Liberal Russian journalist Anton Orek, also writing on Telegram, agrees. “We are outcasts in the world.. Arnold is one of the few people who addressed Russians not as savage orcs, but as good people who have lost their ways.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger published a moving video to tell Russians the truth about the war in Ukraine.
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