Elon Musk is trying to weather the storm.
When Moscow invaded Kyiv on February 24, the billionaire provided Starlink, the satellite internet access service offered by his aerospace company SpaceX. This gesture allowed Ukrainians to stay connected to the world and to tell their version of this conflict, thus avoiding Russian propaganda dominating the narrative.
The richest man in the world was seen as a savior on social networks by pro-Ukrainians and the West.
This peace plan intervenes at a time when the Russian armed forces have suffered symbolic defeats in various Ukrainian regions.
Musk's peace plan has four points, but two points are controversial. The first is that Musk asked Ukraine to recognize that its region of Crimea, annexed in 2014 by Russia, is Russian territory. The tycoon also asked Ukraine to remain neutral in geopolitical affairs in the future. In other words, Kyiv must give up any aspiration to become a member of the European Union and a member of NATO.
Musk submitted this plan to the vote of Twitter users who overwhelmingly rejected it, thus inflicting on the billionaire a scathing disavowal.
The plan was torn up by the Ukrainian authorities who did not hesitate to accuse him of treason. Musk for them has become pro-Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrapped his criticism in a poll to caricature Musk by asking social media users if they preferred the Elon Musk who supports Ukraine or the Elon Musk who supports Russia.
"F--- off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk," commented Ukraine's Ambassador in Germany, Andrij Melnyk, in a tweet.
But the serial entrepreneur responded to criticism and did not give in. He explained that his peace plan is simply borrowed from reality. He warned that without peace it is possible that the conflict becomes a total war with the possibility that it turns into a nuclear war with heavy consequences not only for Ukraine but also for the rest of the world.
He therefore believes that the world cannot take such a big risk.
"I still very much support Ukraine, but am convinced that massive escalation of the war will cause great harm to Ukraine and possibly the world," Musk responded to President Zelensky's criticism.
He voiced similar concerns to Twitter users horrified by his peace plan.
"Russia is doing partial mobilization," the serial entrepreneur posted. "They go to full war mobilization if Crimea is at risk. Death on both sides will be devastating."
He added that: "Russia has >3 times population of Ukraine, so victory for Ukraine is unlikely in total war. If you care about the people of Ukraine, seek peace."
Musk and Putin
All these explanations have still not succeeded in calming people's minds. And it is not certain that Musk will succeed after an announcement he has just made on Twitter.
Indeed, the billionaire has just indicated that he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2021 by videoconference. The revelation came after fresh criticism from US senator Lindsey Graham, who said Musk's peace plan was "dumb."
It all started with a Twitter user who asked Musk if he had ever met Putin in person.
"Have you ever talked to Putin in person Elon?" the user asked.
"We talked via videoconference last year," Musk responded.
The Chief Executive Officer of Tesla did not give further details. He did not say, for example, who initiated the exchange or when it took place precisely. Musk does not say what the discussion was about.
But it should be noted that an exchange between Musk and Putin is not particularly surprising since SpaceX, the billionaire's other company, is an important player in the conquest of space, a strategic sector for most large countries with global ambitions.
But the revelation comes at a very bad time.
Elon Musk is known for not doing things like everyone else.
Unsurprisingly, the announcement sparked conspiracy theories and sarcastic comments.
"Incoming articles: "Musk & Putin held secret video conference prior to Ukraine invasion," commented one Twitter user.
"How’d that go?" another user quipped.
"That should be released as to what was said," chimed in another user.
"Were you recruited before or after? who did you speak to to get money from Russia to buy Twitter?" said one user.