The Kremlin swiftly dismissed Ukraine’s assertions regarding the alleged use of Starlink internet terminals by Russian troops deployed on the frontline. Despite Kyiv’s claims, Russian authorities rebuffed any suggestion that their military personnel were utilizing such technology in combat operations.
According to Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence agency, there exists purported evidence indicating the systematic deployment of Starlink terminals by Russian forces. This accusation leveled against Moscow includes allegations of clandestine efforts to introduce these terminals into Ukrainian territory, branding it as a form of “smuggling.”
Starlink, a satellite internet service owned by entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX, operates through a constellation of satellites positioned in low Earth orbit. This innovative network enables the provision of internet connectivity to remote areas or regions where traditional communication infrastructure may be lacking or disrupted.
In a candid statement during a streamed session on X, formerly known as Twitter, Musk voiced his skepticism regarding the efficacy of US funding to Ukraine, highlighting his own companies’ contributions to countering Russian influence. Amidst ongoing geopolitical tensions, Musk’s remarks underscore the complexities surrounding the role of technology and external support in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
Elon Musk reiterated SpaceX’s significant impact on the Russian space launch sector, claiming the company’s endeavors had effectively diminished two-thirds of Russia’s space launch business. Furthermore, Musk asserted that Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet service, had notably benefited Ukraine’s connectivity infrastructure.
However, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov refuted these assertions, emphasizing that Starlink was not officially provided or operational within Russia’s borders. Peskov clarified that due to its non-availability, any suggestion of its use by Russian troops was unfounded.
Despite the Kremlin’s denial, Kyiv persisted in its accusations, alleging the systematic deployment of Starlink devices by Russian forces along the frontlines in Ukraine. GUR spokesman Andriy Yusov reiterated these claims, asserting that the usage of Starlink among Russian troops had become more prevalent, particularly compared to previous years.
Yusov stated that Ukraine would refrain from divulging all the specifics regarding its allegations, implying a strategic approach to handling the matter.
Interestingly, Ukraine has extensively employed Starlink to bolster communication and connectivity for its military personnel throughout the duration of the two-year conflict.
In response to reports suggesting that SpaceX had supplied Starlink terminals to Russia, Musk vehemently dismissed these claims as “categorically false” in a post on his X social media platform. He further clarified that, to the best of his knowledge, neither direct nor indirect sales of Starlink terminals to Russia had occurred.
Acknowledging Musk’s denial, Yusov reiterated that Kyiv acknowledged Starlink was not officially sold to Russian entities. This acknowledgment underscored Ukraine’s awareness of the situation, despite the ongoing controversy surrounding the alleged use of Starlink by Russian troops.
Yusov emphasized that Russia’s acquisition of Starlink terminals occurred through what he described as “parallel imports,” a practice he likened to smuggling.
Following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent imposition of Western sanctions, the Kremlin established a network of traders and intermediaries in third countries to procure prohibited goods and other items no longer accessible within Russia.
This recent dispute between Kyiv and Musk over Starlink is not the first of its kind. Last year, the Tesla and SpaceX magnate rebuffed a request to activate the network in the Crimean city of Sevastopol to aid a Ukrainian offensive against Russia’s naval fleet. Musk justified his decision by asserting that SpaceX would have been “explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation” had he complied.
Furthermore, Musk previously expressed concerns about the sustainability of maintaining the Starlink service in Ukraine indefinitely. However, he later relented and agreed to continue providing connections, albeit with certain reservations.