How Elon Musk’s changing Ukraine commentary totally backfired on him

SpaceX boss helped provide Starlink internet to war-torn country in days after invasion

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Tuesday 04 October 2022 06:33 BST
Related video: Ukraine thanks Elon Musk for Starlink satellite donation

When Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk took to Twitter to blithely run a poll among his 107m followers on his proposals for a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia, the response from the war-torn country was quick and hostile.

Mr Musk’s suggestions for endung the conflict that has been raging for eight months since Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion was condemned by Ukrainian diplomats and politicians alike.

The spectacular backfire even earned Mr Musk a presidential slapdown from Volodymyr Zelensky, who took to Twitter to ask his 6.6m followers which version of Mr Musk they preferred, the “One who supports Ukraine” or “One who supports Russia.”

With more than 1 million votes, more than 83 per cent of those who responded, unsurprisingly, sided with Ukraine.

Mr Musk, who has no formal background in international relations or diplomacy, was accused on Twitter of promoting a pro-Russian peace deal.

“Redo elections of annexed regions under UN supervision. Russia leaves if that is will of the people,” wrote Mr Musk.

“Crimea formally part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s mistake).

“Water supply to Crimea assured. - Ukraine remains neutral.”

Mr Musk, the world’s richest man, told his followers that his suggestions were “highly likely to be the outcome in the end” and that it was simply a “question of how many die before then”.

And he added that as Ukraine was unlikely to defeat Russia “in total war”, then “if you care about the people off Ukraine, seek peace”.

The South African-born entrepreneur is no stranger to controversy – or being attacked on social media.

But that he would be on the end of such fierce criticism from Ukraine, where he has become a revered figure, is unexpected.

This photograph taken on September 25, 2022, shows an antenna of the Starlink satellite-based broadband system donated by the US tech billionaire Elon Musk in Izyum, Kharkiv region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP via Getty Images)

From the very start of the Russian invasion, one of Mr Musk’s companies has played a critical role in providing internet access to Ukrainian forces on the battlefield and to its citizens across the country.

SpaceX’s Starlink network of Internet-beaming satellites has helped keep Ukraine connected throughout the conflict.

Just two days after Russian tanks crossed into the country in February, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister tweeted directly at Mr Musk, urging him to send Starlink equipment.

(Getty Images)

“(Elon Musk) while you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand,” tweeted Mr Fedorov.

Just hours later, Mr Musk, replied: “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.”

And two days after that the politician posted a picture of the first shipment arriving in Ukraine.

“Starlink — here. Thanks, (Elon Musk),” tweeted Mr Fedorov.

Mr Zelensky himself has praised Starlink for its role in keeping Ukraine connected to the rest of the world, and for preventing Vladimir Putin from silencing him.

Something that Mr Musk is now only too aware of.

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