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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Ukraine Alleges Russian Military Utilizing Musk’s Starlink in Occupied Regions

Russian forces in the occupied regions of Ukraine reportedly utilize Starlink terminals provided by Elon Musk’s SpaceX for satellite internet, according to Kyiv’s primary military intelligence agency. The use of these terminals, initially deployed to aid Ukraine after the February 2022 invasion, has become a “systemic” issue, as stated by Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukrainian defense intelligence (GUR).

While Starlink asserts that it does not engage in any business transactions with the Russian government or military, cases of the Russian occupiers deploying these terminals have been identified, particularly among units like Russia’s 83rd air assault brigade, engaged in combat in the partially occupied eastern Donetsk region near Klishchiivka and Andriivka.

Starlink terminals are designed with geofencing to restrict their operation to authorized locations. However, there are online discussions suggesting that Russian forces might manipulate the geofencing system to make a terminal appear in a permitted area, or they may use terminals initially allocated for Ukrainian use but have since fallen under Russian control.

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Elon Musk addressed the situation in a Sunday post on X, stating, “To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia… A number of false news reports claim that SpaceX is selling Starlink terminals to Russia. This is categorically false.” However, neither Musk nor Starlink explicitly mentioned efforts to proactively prevent Russian forces from acquiring or using Starlink terminals. Starlink added that if they learn of a terminal being used by a sanctioned or unauthorized party, they investigate and take action to deactivate the terminal if confirmed. The statements did not address ongoing investigations into specific Ukrainian claims or any proactive measures to prevent terminal use by Russian forces.

Ukraine’s GUR agency claimed to have intercepted communication between two soldiers discussing the establishment of the Starlink terminals. As evidence, the agency posted an audio clip of the exchange on the Telegram messenger platform.

However, the GUR did not provide details on how it believed the Russian forces obtained these terminals. There was no clarification on whether the terminals were acquired through international procurement or captured from Ukrainian forces during the conflict.

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