Elon Musk escalated his feud with Ukraine last night with a tweet mocking the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky for his pleas for wartime assistance as the future of US aid to Kyiv hangs in the balance.
In a post on his social media platform X (formerly Twitter), Musk posted a meme showing a photoshopped image of the Ukrainian leader and the caption: ‘When it’s been 5 minutes and you haven’t asked for a billion dollars in aid’.
Musk also owns SpaceX, which provides Starlink satellite communication services that are vital for Ukraine’s defence effort, but his statements have sometimes angered Kyiv since the full-scale invasion launched by Russia in February last year.
Outrage quickly built over Musk’s tweet, and Kyiv was quick to hit back at the billionaire by posting a derisive reply of its own.
On its official page on X, Ukraine’s parliament accused Musk of spreading Russian propaganda, posting its own version of the meme with a picture of Musk and the caption: ‘When it’s been 5 minutes and you haven’t spread Russian propaganda’.
Elon Musk escalated his feud with Ukraine last night with a tweet (pictured) mocking the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky for his pleas for wartime assistance
Kyiv was quick to hit back at the billionaire, posting a derisive reply of its own. On its official page on X, Ukraine’s parliament accused Musk of spreading Russian propaganda, posting its own version of the meme with a picture of Musk and the caption: ‘When it’s been 5 minutes and you haven’t spread Russian propaganda’
The speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, also hit back at Musk’s jibe.
‘The case when …(Elon Musk) tried to conquer space, but something went wrong and in 5 minutes he was up to his eyeballs in s**t,’ an apparent reference to SpaceX’s failed rocket launch in April.
Mariana Betsa, ambassador of Ukraine to Estonia, accused Musk of lacking empathy, pointing to the thousands Ukrainian of civilians killed in Russia’s invasion of her home country.
‘Elon, don’t you have empathy? Ukrainians are killed daily by Russia. We are fighting for our lives, for our families, for our country, for our freedom #StandWithUkraine,’ she wrote on X.
Roman Sheremeta, a Ukrainian academic, wrote that he one admired the Tesla CEO, ‘but he became a mouthpiece of the russian propaganda and just indecent human being.’
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, who has criticised some of Musk’s statements in the past, said in a post on X that being silent or ironic about Ukraine played into the hands of Russia and boosted its propaganda.
‘Unfortunately, not everyone and not always, while being significant media figures, but being thousands of kilometres away from the war’s epicentre, is able to realise what the daily bombardments and cries of children losing their parents are.’
The meme that was sent back-and-forth between Musk and the official Twitter account of Ukraine’s parliament originally found its way on the internet in 2014 captioned ‘Trying to Hold a Fart Next to a Cute Girl in Class’, and shows a male student sitting in a classroom with a strained, red-faced facial expression.
The picture is often captioned by netziens to show their feelings over uncomfortable situations or humorous frustrations, particularly in instances when someone is trying not to say something.
Musk’s meme was in reference to the fact that Zelensky and his top lieutenants have often appealed to their allies throughout the war to secure billions of dollars of military aid to weather and push back Russia’s invasion.
Ukrainian officials criticised Musk earlier in the war for suggesting that they should consider giving up land for peace, a position that Kyiv has staunchly rejected.
Such a move would only benefit Russia and leave thousands of Ukrainians living under Moscow’s rule, they argue.
Any such attempt at appeasement would likely be short-lived, as analysts believe Putin’s ambitions to control the whole of Ukraine would not be satisfied.
The meme was not the only time Musk commented on Ukraine over the weekend.
On Friday, commenting on the US funding situation, Musk wrote on X: ‘Why do so many American politicians from both parties care 100 times more about the Ukraine border than the USA border?’
In its reporting on Musk’s comments and the growing backlash against him, the Kyiv Post wrote: ‘At the US border, thousands of largely peaceful migrants are crossing in the hopes of claiming asylum in the US.
‘At the Ukrainian border, tens of thousands of Russian troops have crossed hoping to illegally annex an entire country in what one Moscow general has described as a “stepping stone” to a wider invasion of Europe.’
Zelensky visited the United States in September and met top officials in Washington in a bid to secure further aid as Kyiv pushes forward with its counteroffensive.
However, over the weekend, aid for Ukraine was omitted from a stopgap funding measure passed by the US Congress to avert a US government shutdown.
The US has been the largest single donor to Ukraine since Russia’s full invasion last year, giving tens of billions of dollars in military and financial aid.
But the dropping of the $6billion funding from the bill will be of concern to Ukraine and its allies, amid fears cracks are appearing in the West over its support for Kyiv.
Ukraine is already nervously eyeing the possibility of a return to the White House by Republican former president Donald Trump, who has previously praised Putin.
President Joe Biden has attempted to reassure Kyiv it will get the funding it needs.
Musk also owns SpaceX , which provides Starlink satellite communication services that are vital for Ukraine’s defence effort, but his statements have sometimes angered Kyiv since the full-scale invasion launched by Russia in February last year
Zelensky visited the United States in September and met top officials in Washington in a bid to secure further aid. Pictured: Zelensky and Biden in the Oval Office, September 21
Biden and his Democratic party say America has a duty to help Ukraine stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion, warning that a failure to do so could embolden other autocrats in the future.
Biden urged Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to ‘stop the games’ and said he ‘fully expects’ him to secure passage of a separate bill for Ukraine funding soon.
‘I want to assure our American allies, the American people and the people in Ukraine that you can count on our support. We will not walk away,’ Biden said in an address from the White House on Sunday.
Ukraine played down the blow, saying Sunday it was ‘actively working with its American partners’ to ensure new wartime aid.