Arnold Schwarzenegger makes passionate plea to Russia amid Ukraine invasion: ‘You can stop this war’

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Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Hollywood star and former governor of California, is speaking out amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The actor took to social media on Thursday and shared a passionate nine-minute video in which he urged Russian citizens and military members, in particular, to hear “the truth.” The famed bodybuilder revealed he wanted to dispel information and urged for Russia’s government, military and citizens to end the ongoing violence.

“The strength and the heart of the Russian people have always inspired me,” said the 74-year-old. “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.”

Schwarzenegger cited Yuri Petrovich Vlasov, a champion weightlifter from Russia as one of his childhood idols. He described how his father Gustav Schwarzenegger, a member of the Nazi party who served in World War II, became 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,” Schwarzenegger recalled. “But I did not take down the photograph, because it didn’t matter to me what flag Yuri Vlasov carried.”

Schwarzenegger candidly spoke about his father’s dark history and its impact.

“[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 continued. “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.”

The family of Arnold Schwarzenegger (L-R) – half brother Meinhard Schwarzenegger, mother Aurelia Schwarzenegger and father Gustav Schwarzenegger) pose for a photo in 1965 in Thal, Austria.
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Schwarzenegger shot down claims made by the Russian government that the purpose of their invasion was to “denazify Ukraine.” He explained how the war was provoked by Russia and declared illegal by 141 nations at the UN. He also detailed how many civilian buildings, including a maternity hospital, were bombed, as well as how 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!”

The video was accompanied by videos and images of refugees packed in crowded rooms as they attempt to escape. Other families were seen giving tearful 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,” he said. “To those in power in the Kremlin, let me just ask you: Why would you sacrifice these young men for your own ambition? … To [Russian] President Putin, I say: You started this war. You are leading this war. You can stop this war.”

Russian heavyweight weightlifter Yuri Vlasov in action during the World Championships which he won to achieve the official title of the strongest man in the world, circa 1962.
(Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Schwarzenegger hoped that his message will resonate with listeners and encourage an end to the deadly conflict impacting the world.

“To all of the Russians who have been protesting in the streets against the invasion of Ukraine: the world has seen your bravery,” he said. “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.”

Ukraine was invaded on Feb. 24. The invasion has sparked worldwide condemnation. Hundreds have already been reported either dead or wounded, including children. Millions have fled or attempted to escape the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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