'Classic Putin play': Former Trump official says Russia is using Elon Musk's 'ego' against Ukraine
Elon Musk (AFP)

Fiona Hill, a former Trump adviser who also served as a key witness against him during his first impeachment trial, says she believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has been using Tesla CEO Elon Musk to exert diplomatic pressure on Ukraine.

In an interview with Politico, Hill said that Musk -- who floated a widely panned "peace plan" between Russia and Ukraine and who also recently demanded that the American government start footing the bill for Ukraine's continued access to the Starlink satellite network -- is essentially being used as a conduit for Putin as he tries to end the conflict in Ukraine favorably on Russian terms.

"This is a classic Putin play," she said of Musk's recent attempts to interject himself as a "peacemaker" between Russia and Ukraine. "Elon Musk has enormous leverage as well as incredible prominence. Putin plays the egos of big men, gives them a sense that they can play a role. But in reality, they’re just direct transmitters of messages from Vladimir Putin."

Hill also outlined the ways that Putin often uses Russian-friendly businesspeople to act as his intermediaries as a way to get around traditional communications channels.

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"He is basically short-circuiting the diplomatic process," she explained. "He wants to lay out his terms and see how many people are going to pick them up. All of this is an effort to get Americans to take themselves out of the war and hand over Ukraine and Ukrainian territory to Russia."

Read the full interview here.