Tue. Sep 26th, 2023
Elon Musk Accused of Withholding Starlink Internet from Ukraine

Tech billionaire and CEO of X Corp, Elon Musk, faced questions from reporters regarding claims that his decision to withhold the satellite network Starlink from Ukrainian forces had led to the loss of Ukrainian lives. Musk was accused of enabling Russia’s forces and supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin by cutting off internet access to Ukraine during their counteroffensive, which subsequently resulted in Russian attacks on Ukrainian defensive positions.

Musk, who had attended a meeting on AI regulations at the US Capitol Hill the day before, was approached by a reporter from Sky News, who questioned whether his ego had influenced the decision to sever the internet connection during the ongoing war. However, Musk chose not to respond and evaded the question.

In September of last year, Ukraine’s forces had planned a drone attack on a Russian naval base near the Crimea coast, using Starlink satellites. However, Musk ordered the Starlink network to be turned off, stating that he had refused the Ukrainian request to activate the satellites in Crimea’s port city of Sevastopol due to Russian sanctions. Musk also revealed that he required authorization and permission from US President Joe Biden to provide internet services in the Russian-occupied peninsula.

According to Musk, complying with the Ukrainian request would have implicated SpaceX in a major act of war and conflict escalation. He acknowledged that he had spoken directly with Russian President Putin about SpaceX’s supply of Starlink internet service to Ukraine’s military during a phone call with Pentagon officials.

Concerns were raised by the US Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon after Ukraine’s forces, defending their territory against Russian aggression, experienced outages and severed connectivity of the Starlink internet service on the frontlines. Musk had issued an ultimatum to the US government, stating that if they did not fund the internet service in Ukraine, amounting to $400 million annually, he would cut off access during the ongoing conflict. The Starlink satellite internet terminals have been crucial for communication and intelligence gathering for Ukraine’s military since their own internet networks were destructed during Russian assaults.