Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk faced immediate ire from Ukrainian diplomats and politicians, including President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, on Monday, after he tweeted that Russia and Ukraine must consider a peace deal that would see Ukraine cede annexed territory to Russia. He has created a poll, urging his over 107 million followers to vote on the idea.
The billionaire on Monday noon proposed UN-supervised elections in four occupied regions that Moscow last week moved to annex after what it called referendums. He also suggested that Crimea, seized by Moscow in 2014, be formally recognised as Russia. And that water supply to Crimea be restored and that Ukraine should remain neutral. He asked Twitter users to vote 'yes' or 'no' on the plan.
Ukraine-Russia Peace:— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2022
- Redo elections of annexed regions under UN supervision. Russia leaves if that is will of the people.
- Crimea formally part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s mistake).
- Water supply to Crimea assured.
- Ukraine remains neutral.
Immediately, Kyiv and Western governments denounced the votes as illegal and coercive.
Which @elonmusk do you like more?— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) October 3, 2022
The harshest reponse came from Ukraine's outspoken outgoing ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, who had faced criticism in July for defending World War Two Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera.
Fuck off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk— Andrij Melnyk (@MelnykAndrij) October 3, 2022
Instead of bowing out, Musk kept offering unsolicited opinions. 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— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2022
Lithuania's President Gitanas Nausėda tweeted in response.
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. https://t.co/0eEjCydqu1— Gitanas Nausėda (@GitanasNauseda) October 3, 2022
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." Massive backlash later, Musk said that Moscow could announce a full mobilisation, leading to a "full war" where "death on both sides will be devastating" given Russia's far larger population.
Russia is doing partial mobilization. They go to full war mobilization if Crimea is at risk. Death on both sides will be devastating.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2022
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.
In February, when Russia disrupted Ukraine's internet, Musk responded to a tweet by a Ukrainian government official seeking help, offering SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband service and promising to send more terminals to the country. Musk, however, faced backlash when he suggested on launching a website to rank journalists called Pravda, unaware that the word it was eponymous to a prominent Ukrainian news organisation.
Meanwhile, Twitter wants a Delaware court to order Elon Musk to buy the social media service for $44 billion, as he promised back in April. The Tesla billionaire's reputation for dismissing government pronouncements has some worried that he might flout an unfavourable ruling of the Delaware Court of Chancery.