“ ‘You started this war. You are leading this war. You can stop this war.’ ”
That was Arnold Schwarzenegger directly addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin about the war in Ukraine during a nine-minute video appeal that went out Thursday morning on social-media channels.
The Austrian-born former bodybuilder and actor-turned-prominent-U.S.-politician spoke not only to Putin in the video, which was recorded in English and captioned in Russian. He also addressed the Russian people — and in particular, the Russian soldiers — telling them that they are being misled by their government that this war is an attempt to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
“This is not true. Ukraine is a country with a Jewish president,” said Schwarzenegger, referring to Volodymyr Zelensky.
As an actor specializing in action movies, Schwarzenegger has been known to take down more than a few bad guys. In “Red Heat,” a 1988 film, he actually portrayed a Russian police captain who teams up with a Chicago cop (played by Jim Belushi) to catch a Georgian drug kingpin who has fled to the U.S.
This is not the first time that the 74-year-old Schwarzenegger, who as a Republican served as governor of California from 2003 to 2011, has gone public with a broad appeal. After the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot, he issued a video in which he condemned those who took part for shattering the ideals of American democracy.
“‘I’ve had nothing but affection and respect for the people of Russia.’”
Daniel Ketchell, Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff, told the Washington Post that the inspiration for the video came in part from fans of Schwarzenegger who implored him to speak out. But just as important: Schwarzenegger was taken with the story of Oleskii Novikov, a weightlifter from Ukraine who competed in the 2022 Arnold Strongman Classic and had planned to give any prize money he won to purchase body armor for his countrymen and women.
“Arnold was really struck by that,” Ketchell said.
In addition to releasing the video on Twitter TWTR, +1.26% and YouTube, the Schwarzenegger team also posted it on Telegram, a social-media platform that may be easier for Russians to access, the Washington Post noted.
Schwarzenegger has a deep connection with Russia, he noted in the video. He said he first forged that connection when, as a teenager, he met the Russian weightlifting champion Yuri Petrovich Vlasov in Vienna.
Schwarzenegger said he went on to visit Russia in both his career as a competitive bodybuilder and later as a movie actor. In particular, he filmed parts of “Red Heat” in Moscow and met Vlasov again during that time.
“I’ve had nothing but affection and respect for the people of Russia,” Schwarzenegger said.
Schwarzenegger’s latest appeal is already being widely seen. On Twitter, it has generated more than 100,000 “likes” and more than 40,000 retweets.
He said attempts were under way through various means to get it seen as widely as possible within Russia, where many have access only to state media.
Some have commended Schwarzenegger for sharing his thoughts in such a direct, personal way. “What an extraordinary message to the Russian People, so beautiful, so touching and so true!” said one commenter.