Firefighters extinguish raging flames after a Russian attack on a residential area in Kharkov, Ukraine Photo: AP Photo/Evgeniy Titov
Ukraine blames Russian troops in using Elon Musk's satellite Internet service to coordinate attacks on his soldiers.
Kiev published an audio clip saying that soldiers of the Russian 83rd Air Assault Brigade can be heard discussing the installation of the Starlink system. near the front line in the eastern Donbass region.
“Yes, there are cases of these devices being used by Russian occupiers. This is starting to become systemic,” said Andrey Yusov, an official representative of the Ukrainian military.
The Ukrainian military has not provided any details about how the Russian military might use Starlink, but reports and photographs have emerged in the US. and Ukraine have seen Russian troops with Starlink equipment in recent months.
An unnamed Ukrainian military source told US website Defenseone.com that the Russians were using dozens of Starlink devices on the front line.
“ When there are hundreds of them, it will be difficult for us to live,” the source said.
A member of the 80th Separate Air Assault Brigade disables Starlink in the front-line area of Kreminnaya, Ukraine, January 6 Photo: CLOUD KILCOYNE
SpaceX said it does not do business with the Russian government and said Starlink does not operate in the country. However, Russia has been accused of using Starlink in parts of occupied Ukraine.
“If SpaceX receives information that a Starlink terminal is being used by a sanctioned or unauthorized party, we will investigate the allegation and take action to deactivate the terminal if confirmed,” the company said Thursday.
However, analysts said Russian soldiers on the front lines may be able to hide their exact location from Starlink satellites by sending out false GPS data. Russian online sellers are also advertising Starlink equipment for sale in violation of Western sanctions.
Starlink, which is owned and operated by Musk's SpaceX company, was vital to connecting Ukrainian forces throughout the two-year war.
Shortly after the Kremlin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Musk said he would make Starlink free and widely available in Ukraine. Since then, Ukrainian forces have come to rely on a system that uses hundreds of satellites.
But relations between Musk and the Ukrainian government are strained. In 2022, Musk ordered Starlink engineers to turn off satellites covering the coast of occupied Crimea because he was concerned that they could be used to attack Russian troops by Ukrainian drones.
In response, Musk stated that: “Received an urgent request from the authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol. The obvious intention was to sink the majority of the Russian fleet at anchor,” he said.
“If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would have been clearly complicit in a major act of war and escalation of the conflict. »