Opinion | Arnold Schwarzenegger and Russian dissidents are speaking truth about the war in Ukraine | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack


She was also fined for a video she made in which “she called on the Russian people to protest the war, saying only they have the power to ‘stop all this madness.’” That may be not be the end of her troubles. BBC reports: “It is not clear if she will face separate charges relating to her protest on live TV, and there had been fears she would be prosecuted under a more serious, new criminal law that bans calling Russia’s military action in Ukraine an ‘invasion’ or spreading ‘fake news’ about the conflict.”

Ovsyannikova’s determination to tell the truth in an autocracy fueled by lies puts herself and her two children in grave danger. Her message is a threat to the Kremlin because she points a finger directly at Russian President Vladimir Putin and punctures his lies. As she explained, “What is happening in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is the aggressor. The responsibility of this aggression lies on the shoulders of only one person: Vladimir Putin.” Even more dangerous to Putin, she reminds ordinary Russians they have a choice: “Only we have the power to stop all this madness. Go to the protests. Don’t be afraid of anything. They can’t imprison us all.”

Despots rely on enforcing an atmosphere of inevitability that makes resistance to the regime seem futile. Ovsyannikova directly refuted that message. She is inarguably correct: Even Russia’s police state cannot arrest everyone.

Arnold Schwarzenegger made a similar appeal to the Russian people this week. In a remarkable video posted on social media on Thursday, the former California governor, movie actor and bodybuilder spoke directly to the camera, declaring, “[T]here are things that are going on in the world that have been kept from you, terrible things that you should know about. Let me tell you the truth about the war in Ukraine.”

Like Ovsyannikova, he told Russians that their government fed them lies:

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!

He candidly invoked his father’s Nazi past in the German army attacking Leningrad so as to appeal to Russian troops. “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. … 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.”

Schwarzenegger also extolled the bravery of average Russians who risked their lives to protest. “The world has seen your bravery. We know that you’ve suffered the consequences of your courage. You have been arrested, you’ve been jailed, and you’ve been beaten. You are my new heroes.” He told them, “You have the true heart of Russia.”

No one should think such messages can be kept from Russians. Russia is not North Korea. As The Post reports, “In the weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine and imposed new laws penalizing speech that knocked major news sites offline, Russians have flocked to the app stores, tech workers there said.” They are downloading “virtual private networks for connecting across borders and such messaging apps as Telegram, WhatsApp and Threema, all of which are major ways of sharing unapproved news.” This new media, combined with old technology such as shortwave radio, can provide uncensored news to a significant number of Russians.

Meanwhile, hackers continue to wreak havoc with Russian state media. The Post reports: “Wednesday evening, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry website was defaced by hackers, who altered its content. Notably, the hack replaced the department hotline with a number for Russian soldiers to call if they want to defect from the army — under the title ‘Come back from Ukraine alive.’”

Truth and personal agency are despots’ kryptonite. Messages such as those from Ovsyannikova, Schwarzenegger and the army of pro-democracy hackers are spreading across Russia, overwhelming a desperate and humiliated regime. To them we can say, well done.



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