UNITED NATIONS: Billionaire Elon Musk on Monday asked Twitter users to weigh in on a plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine that drew immediate condemnation from Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, who responded with his own poll.
“Which @elonmusk do you like more?,” Zelensky tweeted, offering two responses: one who supports Ukraine, one who supports Russia.
Musk, the world’s richest person, proposed UN-supervised elections in four occupied regions that Moscow last week moved to annex after what it called referendums. The votes were denounced by Kyiv and Western governments as illegal and coercive.
“Russia leaves if that is will of the people,” Musk wrote.
The Tesla Inc. chief executive suggested that Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014, be formally recognized as Russia, that water supply to Crimea be assured and that Ukraine remain neutral. He asked Twitter users to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the plan.
“Dear @elonmusk, when someone tries to steal the wheels of your Tesla, it doesn’t make them legal owner of the car or of the wheels. Even though they claim both voted in favor of it. Just saying,” Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda tweeted in response.
Musk, who is also chief executive of SpaceX, followed up his first tweet with another poll: “Let’s try this then: the will of the people who live in the Donbas & Crimea should decide whether they’re part of Russia or Ukraine.”
He said he didn’t care if his proposal was unpopular, arguing that he did care “that millions of people may die needlessly for an essentially identical outcome.”
“Russia has >3 times population of Ukraine, so victory for Ukraine is unlikely in total war. If you care about the people of Ukraine, seek peace,” he posted on Twitter.
In February, when Ukraine’s Internet was disrupted following Russia’s invasion, Musk responded to a tweet by a Ukrainian government official seeking help. Musk said SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband service was available in Ukraine and that SpaceX was sending more terminals to the country.
“SpaceX’s out of pocket cost to enable & support Starlink in Ukraine is ~$80M so far. Our support for Russia is $0. Obviously, we are pro Ukraine,” Musk posted on Twitter later on Monday.
Ukraine’s outspoken outgoing ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, had a blunt reaction to Musk’s peace plan. Melnyk himself faced criticism in July for defending the controversial World War Two Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera.
“Fuck off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk,” tweeted Melnyk.
On Tuesday, the Kremlin praised Tesla boss proposal for suggesting a possible peace deal to end the war in Ukraine.
“It is very positive that somebody like Elon Musk is looking for a peaceful way out of this situation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call.
“Compared to many professional diplomats, Musk is still searching for ways to achieve peace. And achieving peace without fulfilling Russia's conditions is absolutely impossible,” he added.
As of 1030 GMT on Tuesday, Musk's original poll had garnered more than 2.5 million votes, with some 60% opposed to the plan.
Peskov said on Tuesday that “bots” - phoney twitter accounts - were “actively participating in the voting”. He provided no evidence.
Moscow had always been open to a negotiated end to the conflict, Peskov added. He criticised a new Ukrainian decree, signed by Zelenskiy on Tuesday, which says Kyiv will not negotiate directly with Putin for an end to the conflict.