From Ukraine, ‘DWTS’ pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy asks Russians to speak up against Putin

A man in a shawl-collar tuxedo on a sunny day.
“Dancing With the Stars’” Maksim Chmerkovskiy arrives at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards.
(Dan Steinberg / Invision/Associated Press)

An emotional Maksim Chmerkovskiy, the “Dancing With the Stars” pro, was posting emotional videos Thursday on Instagram from the capital of Ukraine, the country of his birth.

Russia began an invasion of Ukraine early Thursday morning — Wednesday night, West Coast time — with airstrikes and shelling.

“You know me, I stay strong and I don’t show it,” he said from Kyiv, fighting back tears, “but I want to go back home and I realize that I have the way to. ... I have a different passport and my family is far away. What I’m realizing is that my friends, whose kids are here, whose moms [and] dads are here, and elderly people are here, that they can’t just escape.”


The dancer and choreographer, who married fellow “DWTS” pro Peta Murgatroyd in 2017, spoke directly to the Russian people, urging them to ignore the “complete nonsense” and propaganda they were being fed. He said he was not a journalist but would do his best to keep people informed.

Times staffers Nabih Bulos and Marcus Yam are on the ground in Ukraine covering the invasion by Russia. Here’s what they are seeing firsthand.

“I am not at this point someone who is pleading for someone else’s safety from a far distance, from a safe distance,” he said. “I’m somebody who is about to go into a bomb shelter ’cause s— is going down.”

Chmerkovskiy referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as he urged the Russian people to speak up, saying, “This is all one man’s ambition.”

Sirens blared in the background of his videos, which included shots of empty streets and families walking toward shelters with their belongings packed in rolling suitcases.

“Everyone was hoping that the finality of the situation was going to be averted,” Chmerkovskiy said in another video. “That there was not going to be this kind of aggression.”

Russia pressed ahead with its assault on neighboring Ukraine on Thursday, with explosions resounding in cities across the country, airstrikes crippling its defenses and reports of troops crossing the border by land and sea.Map: Tracking the invasion of Ukraine | How to help: California organizations supporting Ukraine | What our foreign correspondents are seeing in Ukraine | Photos: Invasion of Ukraine begins

He wrote in one caption that he was once again experiencing PTSD symptoms that he thought he had overcome.

“I literally only just forgot about those ‘always on the edge’ feelings and actually started worrying about things like bbq grills,” he wrote. “I’m crying as I’m typing this because all man deserves to worry about ‘bbq grills’ and not f— war.”

Among other celebrities posting about the invasion, pop musician Miley Cyrus said she was “standing in solidarity with everyone in Ukraine who is affected by this attack and with our global community who is calling for an immediate end to this violence.”

“My paternal grandparents emigrated from Ukraine,” Barbra Streisand tweeted, “and my heart breaks for the courageous people there fighting this Russian invasion. Putin’s propaganda about ‘denazification’ as a rationale is one of the great lies of this Century.”

“The whole world is praying for the people of Ukraine,” actor Shohreh Aghdashloo tweeted, sharing a photo of a woman praying by the Ganges River in India.