Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and the founder of SpaceX, issued a challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin — single combat and the wager is Ukraine. He tweeted this to his 77.7 million Twitter followers on Monday.
“I hereby challenge Владимир Путин to single combat,” Musk wrote, with Putin’s more formal Russian name. “Stakes are Україна,” with the Ukrainian spelling for Ukraine.
He then tagged Putin and used full Cyrillic text to solicit a direct response, “Do you agree to this fight?”
The director general of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, responded almost immediately.
He tweeted, “You, little devil, are still young, Compete with me weakling; It would only be a waste of time. Overtake my brother first.”
Rogozin cited “The Tale of the Priest and His Workman Balda,” a 17th-century Russian fairytale by Russian poet A. S. Pushkin. The plot revolves around a slacker Russian orthodox priest who hires a simpleton as a cheap servant, who eventually outsmarts his master and drives him insane.
Musk has been sending shipments of SpaceX Starlink terminals to Ukraine since the beginning of the war to help ease internet outages caused by Russian shelling and cyberattacks. Concerns that the “uplink” signals could be used as beacons for Russian airstrikes in Russian-controlled airspace prompted Musk to advise Ukrainian users to install antennas as far away from people as possible and cover them with light camouflage.
Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov commended Starlink for keeping communities linked, but warned that generators were essential since Russian shelling was causing infrastructure damage. Musk said he was working on a software upgrade to lower peak power use, with the goal of allowing terminals to be powered by cigarette lighters.
On its website, Starlink says, “Using advanced satellites in a low orbit, Starlink enables video calls, online gaming, streaming, and other high data rate activities that historically have not been possible with satellite internet.”