Elon Musk’s tweets saying that Crimea rightfully belongs to Russia and proposing a referendum in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine have provoked a firestorm of criticism from Ukraine and its supporters — and nods of appreciation in Moscow.
Musk enjoyed until now a hero status in Ukraine because Starlink terminals — from one of his companies, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX — have played a critical role in maintaining the country’s communications during the war with Russia. Starlink terminals are deployed on hundreds of Ukrainian military outposts around the front lines, allowing commanders to call in artillery strikes and to coordinate operations in areas where mobile-phone services are disabled or jammed by Russia.
In his tweets Monday, Musk offered an online poll on whether the four regions of Ukraine that Russia is planning to annex should hold elections under United Nations supervision, and whether Ukraine should be neutral and assure water supply to Crimea. He noted that Crimea has been part of Russia since 1783, until “Khrushchev’s mistake” — a reference to the 1954 transfer of the peninsula from the Russian to the Ukrainian Soviet republics by the then Soviet leader. Russian illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.
Musk added that victory for Ukraine is unlikely in a total war because Russia has more than three times Ukraine’s population.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky responded with a Twitter poll of his own, asking followers, “Which @elonmusk do you like more?” — one who supports Ukraine or one who supports Russia. Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, was less diplomatic, tweeting that “now no Ukrainian will EVER buy your f…ing Tesla crap.” Musk is the chief executive of auto maker Tesla Inc.
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
Also popular on WSJ.com:
Why interest rates are rising everywhere — except your savings account
The science-backed strategies that will actually help you eat better
Latest news from Ukraine:
Bodies of Russian soldiers lie in the streets of key liberated Ukrainian city of Lyman