Elon Musk challenges Putin to fight, with Ukraine as the prize
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk talks at the Automotive World News Congress at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan, on Jan. 13, 2015. Photo by Rebecca Cook for Reuters.

Put up your dukes, Vlad.

Elon Musk, the world's richest man, on Monday challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin to a fight, with nothing less than the fate of Ukraine, scene of Moscow's brutal invasion, at stake.

The eccentric billionaire and founder of aerospace company SpaceX took to Twitter, where his messages are notoriously erratic, to see whether the Russian leader would test his mettle in person rather than through his country's forces fighting across the border.

"I hereby challenge Vladimir Putin to single combat. Stakes are Ukraine," said Musk.

"Do you accept this fight?" he added in Russian, directly addressing the official English-language Twitter account of the 69-year-old president.

When one of Musk's 77 million followers wrote that the Tesla founder might not have thought his challenge through, Musk said he was "absolutely serious."

"If Putin could so easily humiliate the west, then he would accept the challenge. But he will not," he added.

There was no immediate reaction from the Kremlin.

The South African-born Musk, 50, had already offered his support for Kyiv, tweeting "Hold strong Ukraine" this month while also offering "my sympathies to the great people of Russia, who do not want this" war.

He also responded to a Kyiv plea by activating the Starlink internet service in Ukraine and sending equipment to help bring connectivity to areas hit by Russian military attacks.

Musk often raises eyebrows on Twitter. In February he accused the US stock market regulator, which had imposed fines and restrictions on Musk and Tesla, of trying to muzzle his free speech.

And he compared Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler in a message supporting opponents of government Covid restrictions.

He later deleted the post.

© 2022 AFP