(Bloomberg) -- Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk drew the wrath of Ukrainians from the president on down for Twitter posts urging Ukraine to seek a negotiated solution to the invasion by Russia and to cede Crimea for good.
Musk also launched a Twitter poll asking citizens of occupied areas of eastern Ukraine recently annexed by the Kremlin -- plus Crimea, which Moscow took in 2014 -- to decide if they want to live in Russia or Ukraine. The survey comes as Ukraine, Europe and the US denounce President Vladimir Putin’s move to annex four regions and declare them Russian territory.
In another post, Musk called for the sham referendums conducted by Russia in occupied areas -- which led to Putin authorizing their annexation -- to be redone under United Nations supervision. He also said Crimea should be formally part of Russia. On Ukraine, he said it should “remain neutral.”
The reaction from Ukraine was immediate. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy responded by posting his own poll to Twitter asking his followers if they preferred an Elon Musk who supports Ukraine....or Russia.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, responded there was “a better peace plan” already that included the liberation of territory, including Crimea.
Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine’s top diplomat in Germany, didn’t mince words.
Musk tweeted later in response to Zelenskiy, professing support for Kyiv but sticking with his appeal.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Musk’s desire for a peaceful solution “quite positive,” saying “many of the ideas in Musk’s tweets deserve attention.” But he was cool to the proposal for new annexation votes, saying Russia’s absorption of the territories is not open to discussion. “Reaching peace is completely impossible without fulfilling Russia’s terms,” he said.
Since the early days of the war, Musk has provided Starlink dishes to Ukraine, a network that has proved crucial in supporting communications infrastructure across Ukraine as it counters disinformation from Russia.
Musk touted that effort in later tweet: “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.”
The uproar comes as a Ukrainian counteroffensive picks up speed in the south, after its forces regained towns in the north and east occupied by Russia. Ukraine is under increasing pressure to reclaim territory before the arrival of winter and newly mobilized Russian troops makes progress more difficult and costly.
US Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a Republican who is not seeking re-election, was succinct.
(Updates with Kremlin comment in eighth paragraph)
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