Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, has debunked reports circulating as false news claiming that the Russian military has obtained access to Starlink satellite Internet and is using it in the war zone in Ukraine.
Musk clarified on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter, owned by Musk’s company) that SpaceX has not sold any Starlink terminals to Russia directly or indirectly.
“A number of false news reports claim that SpaceX is selling Starlink terminals to Russia. This is categorically false. To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia,” he wrote on X.
When asked whether Russia could potentially utilize Starlink terminals acquired through intermediaries, Musk did not provide a direct response.
However, Ukraine’s Military Intelligence (HUR) on Sunday, Feb. 11, reported that the Russian military is indeed employing Starlink satellite communication systems in the occupied territories of Ukraine.
HUR released intercepted radio communications purportedly from Russian military personnel discussing the use of Starlink terminals by the 83rd airborne assault brigade in the Donetsk region for establishing Internet access.
Prior to that, on Friday, Feb. 9, the Defense One outlet had already reported that the Russian military had begun using Starlink services for communication several months ago.
This image, annotated to highlight a Starlink terminal, was provided by a Ukrainian source who called it a screenshot of video from a Ukrainian drone participating in a strike on a Russian position inside Ukraine.
At the same time, the Astra edition published screenshots from Russian websites of Starlink sales advertisements for its “Special Military Operation.”
It’s believed that Starlink terminals with activated accounts are being supplied to Russia en masse through Dubai.
SpaceX has stated that it does not engage in business with the Russian government or its armed forces. They emphasized that Starlink service is not available in Russia and clarified that they do not operate in Dubai.
SpaceX does not do business of any kind with the Russian Government or its military.— Starlink (@Starlink) February 8, 2024
Starlink is not active in Russia, meaning service will not work in that country. SpaceX has never sold or marketed Starlink in Russia, nor has it shipped equipment to locations in Russia. If…
Amid Russia’s full-scale invasion, SpaceX has deployed the Starlink network in Ukraine and donated or supplied thousands of satellite Internet terminals to local authorities, with funding coming from the American government and volunteers.
The Starlink Saga
According to the biography of Elon Musk, written by Walter Isaacson, in 2022, the founder of SpaceX secretly instructed his employees to turn off Starlink satellites near the coast of the annexed Crimea. This maneuver aimed to disrupt a potential assault by the Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU) against the Russian Navy.
Ukrainian authorities attempted to persuade Musk to restore satellite operations, only to face refusal. Musk’s cited response was that Kyiv had gone “too far” with its intentions.
Consequently, drones deprived of communication were propelled ashore, as reported by CNN.
According to Isaacson’s account, Musk’s decision was out of fear that the Russian authorities might respond to this “Mini Pearl Harbor” with nuclear weaponry. The book attributes this fear to Musk’s conversations with “senior Russian officials.”
Musk himself stated that Starlink does not work in Crimea and he refused the Ukrainian military’s request to turn on the system since his company “would be directly involved in the war and the escalation of the conflict.”
There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 7, 2023
The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor.
If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and…
In February 2023, SpaceX banned the Ukrainian military from using Starlink for offensive purposes, including drone control. In July of the same year, The New York Times wrote, citing people “familiar with the situation,” that SpaceX was restricting the operation of satellites in the war zone.
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