Ukrainian intelligence says Russia using Starlink satellite Internet system for combat operations in occupied territory
The Russian military is using the Starlink satellite Internet system during combat operations in occupied Ukrainian territories, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate.
Andriy Yusov, the spokesman for Ukraine's Main Intelligence Directorate, said that the Russian military was beginning to “systematically” use Starlink terminals.
As evidence, Ukrainian intelligence published a radio intercept of a conversation between Russian military personnel. From the exchange, it follows that Starlink terminals are being used by members of Russia’s 83rd Guards Air Assault Brigade, who are fighting near Klishchiivka and Andriivka in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
Earlier, Defense One reported that Russian military personnel were using Starlink on the front lines. Sources in Ukraine told journalists that Russian troops first began using Starlink services for communication several months ago. The publication Astra posted screenshots of advertisements for the sale of Starlink terminals “for the special military operation.” It is thought that Starlink terminals with activated accounts are being shipped en masse to Russia via Dubai.
Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, which provides the Starlink satellite Internet, stated that it does not do business with the Russian government or military and said that the Starlink service is not available in Russia. The company also noted that they do not operate in Dubai.
At the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, SpaceX deployed the Starlink network in Ukraine and provided thousands of satellite Internet terminals to local authorities as donations or paid for by the U.S. government and volunteers.
According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Musk, in 2022, the SpaceX founder secretly instructed his employees to disable Starlink satellites near the coast of Russian-annexed Crimea to thwart an attack by the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the Russian Navy. Musk himself stated that Starlink does not operate in Crimea and that he refused the Ukrainian military’s request to activate the system, as his company “would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”
In February 2023, SpaceX prohibited the Ukrainian military from using Starlink for offensive purposes, including for operating drones. 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 combat zones.
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