On Monday, wealthy business owner Elon Musk made fun of Ukraine’s former leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy by sharing a meme that belittled the president’s requests for assistance from Western countries during times of war.
“After 5 minutes, Musk’s message stated that the request for a billion dollars in aid had not been made yet. The message was accompanied by a photo of Zelenskyy’s head attached to a well-known image of a distressed schoolboy, who, according to the origins of the meme, was struggling to hold in flatulence while in a classroom.”
Musk’s relationship with Ukrainians and their government has been strained since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion in February 2022. Now, they are fed up with the SpaceX CEO and former owner of X (previously known as Twitter).
Anton Tymoshenko, a Ukrainian stand-up comedian, replied to Musk’s post by accusing him of using social media as a platform to bully those who are dying for the sake of freedom.
“Elon, was this meme composed during a casual conversation with Putin on the phone?” Vasyl Baydak, a Ukrainian comic and volunteer, jokingly asked. This references a New Yorker article claiming that Musk and the Russian president had a direct conversation.
Ukrainian media outlets also participated in the backlash against Musk, as evidenced by popular publication Ukrainska Pravda sharing a similar meme featuring Musk’s edited face with the caption: “When it’s been 5 minutes and you haven’t spread Russian propaganda.”
Zelenskyy has yet to respond to Musk’s post. However, one of his advisors, Serhiy Leshchenko, responded with a tweet accusing Musk of “trolling.”
Musk shared a meme soon after U.S. President Joe Biden signed a temporary budget bill that did not include aid for Ukraine in order to prevent a shutdown of the American government.
After Putin launched his attack on Kyiv last year, Musk was praised in Ukraine for his quick action to offer Starlink satellite internet to the nation. However, this perception changed when he started sharing social media posts that Ukraine claimed to be promoting pro-Russian ideas.
Based on a recent biography of the technology executive, Musk covertly directed his team to deactivate Starlink satellite connections near the shores of Russian-occupied Crimea in order to thwart a potential Ukrainian drone attack.
Last week, the European Commission slammed Musk’s X as the social media platform which is the biggest source of disinformation.