Retired Houston astronaut using social media to cut through Russian President Putin's propaganda

Retired Houston Astronaut Terry Virts is using his Instagram, @astro_terry, to try to get through to his Russian friends.
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A retired astronaut is taking to social media, trying to stop the war in Ukraine.

"I have a very important message for my Russian friends living in Russia about the war in Ukraine," said Terry Virts in a video message posted to Instagram. "You are not getting the truth from Putin's government."

Years after retiring as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force and from NASA, Virts has joined the fight to save Ukraine.

Using his Instagram handle, @astro_terry, he is posting videos to his more than 200,000 followers.

"I'm just trying to put truth out there because truth has become very difficult to find in Russia today," he said.

Virts joined NASA in 2000, training alongside Russian cosmonauts.

He traveled to the International Space Station twice, where he lived with them in tight quarters.

During his second mission in 2014, he went up on a Russian rocket, just as Russia was invading Crimea.

As the commander of the space station then, he watched from above as bombs exploded over Ukraine.

"You could see these red flashes. So I was watching Russian bombs killing Ukrainians from space with my cosmonaut colleague," Virts said.

He says he worked hard to keep politics out of space survival and became close friends with his Russian counterparts.

But he recently learned cosmonauts were part of the vote to invade Ukraine again.

"People that spent time in space looking back at our beautiful planet, supposedly having this mind transforming experience are voting to support Putin," Virts told ABC13.

He believes they have fallen victim to Putin's propaganda.

"Propaganda works. Disinformation works. The human mind is no match for algorithms," Virts explained.

Striving to get through to his Russian friends, he began his own campaign to rip apart the lies.

"Russian army troops are bombing civilian targets," he says in a post from March 5."The government of Ukraine is not a Nazi regime. Ukrainians are not committing genocide against Russians."

His videos, viewed thousands of times, have gotten responses from Russians.

Some still claim support for Putin.

But Virts says he will not stop posting his news updates and sharing the truth.

He is doing it to save the lives of the men, women and children fleeing a deadly invasion.

In a video message, he urges viewers to share the messages with people living in Russia. "Please share this message with your friends and colleagues in Russia. The truth needs to be made known."

For more on this story, follow Shelley Childers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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