“Ukraine did not start this war,” the former California governor said in an emotional message to the people of Russia and Russian troops posted to his Twitter account and other platforms.
“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 said in the powerful nine-minute video that was subtitled in Russian.
The Austrian-born former bodybuilding champion, whose film “Red Heat” was the first American movie filmed in Moscow’s Red Square, spoke of his affection for the Russian people and meeting his idol, Russian weightlifter Yuri Vlasov, when he was 14 years old.
“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.
“I know that your government has told you that this is a war to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine,” he said. “This is not true. Those in power in the Kremlin started this war. This is not the Russian people’s war.”
Schwarzenegger said “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.
“Because of its brutality, Russia is now isolated from the society of nations,” he said.
In an appeal to Russian troops, Schwarzenegger recalled the wounds suffered by his father while fighting for the Nazis in Russia during World War II.
“He was broken physically and mentally and lived the rest of his life in pain,” he said. “To the Russian troops listening to this broadcast... 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,” he said. “This is an illegal war. Your lives, your limbs, your futures have been sacrificed for a senseless war condemned by the entire world.”
Addressing Putin directly, Schwarzenegger said: “You started this war. You are leading this war. You can stop this war.”
He closed the message with praise for Russians risking arrest by protesting against the war.
“The world has seen your bravery,” he said. “You are my new heroes.”