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Oct. 4, 2022, 10:16 a.m. EDT

Elon Musk sparks outrage in Ukraine over Russia tweets

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Yaroslav Trofimov

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. /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA +0.08% .

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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