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Podolyak: Elon Musk's irony encourages Russian propaganda

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk October 2, 2023 7:49 PM 2 min read
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and X, arrives for the “AI Insight Forum” outside the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on Sept. 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukraine's Presidential Office, characterized Elon Musk's social media posts on Oct. 2 that ridiculed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as an encouragement of Russian propaganda.

Podolyak wrote on Twitter that "any silence or irony towards Ukraine today is a direct encouragement of Russian propaganda that justifies mass violence and destruction."

Although not directly mentioning Musk, he added that "unfortunately...significant media figures thousands of kilometers away from the epicenter of the war (are unable) to realize what the daily bombardments and the cries of children losing their parents are."

Elon Musk shared an insulting doctored meme of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Twitter on Oct. 2, insinuating that Zelensky asks for too much aid for Ukraine.

The official Twitter account of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, also responded in kind with doctored meme of its own (which was later deleted) that accused Musk of spreading Russian propaganda.

It was not the first time that Musk had stoked controversy with comments about Ukraine. In Oct. 2022, he made an unsolicited suggestion that Ukraine should trade land for peace. The proposal received a derisive reaction from Zelensky.

Musk has also recently come under fire for allegedly instructing his engineers to secretly turn off Starlink satellite communications near Crimea in 2022 to prevent a Ukrainian submarine drone attack against Russian military ships. In response, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) called for an investigation into Musk and his company, SpaceX.

In another act of misconduct relating to Ukraine, Musk also provided his confidential messages with Ukraine's Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov to the billionaire's biographer without permission, according to a report by the Financial Times on Sept. 8.

Musk's SpaceX began providing the Starlink satellite internet system to Ukraine shortly after the Russian full-scale invasion in February 2022. The system has kept many Ukrainians online despite power outages and Russia's attacks on the country's internet infrastructure.

In October 2022, Musk said he could no longer keep Starlink in Ukraine operational due to high upkeep costs and requested funding from the Pentagon. The billionaire later changed his statement and said Starlink will stay online regardless of the Pentagon's support.

According to an article by The New Yorker published on Aug. 21, Musk held conversations with Vladimir Putin – though the billionaire denied talking to the Russian president – which had an effect on Musk's change of position regarding Ukraine.

Musk says he didn’t turn on Starlink near Crimea due to US sanctions on Russia
U.S. sanctions on Russia meant that Starlink satellite connection near Crimea could not be turned on for a Ukrainian military operation without permission from the U.S. president, Elon Musk said at the All-In Summit in Los Angeles on Sept. 12.
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