Simple coincidence? Ukraine reports Starlink equipment outages during counteroffensive

Thousands of Starlink terminals, made by SpaceX, the company owned by Elon Musk, have been donated by the company, purchased by the US government or funded by donations to help Ukrainian troops operate drones, receive vital intelligence updates and communicate with each other in areas where there are no other secure networks.

Some of the outages have led to a “catastrophic” loss of communications in recent weeks, said a senior Ukrainian government official with direct knowledge of the matter. Many were reported as soldiers entered the front line into Russian-controlled territory, and some during pitched battles, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Financial Times.

They were acute in the south, around the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, but also occurred along the front line in eastern Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk, the official said.

Another official in Kyiv said that the outages were widespread and prompted panicked calls from soldiers to helplines. Both Ukrainian officials said the problems arose when soldiers liberated the territory from Russia and crossed the front line.

The outages underscore the outsized role of Moscow’s communications systems on the battlefield as Ukraine’s counteroffensives in the country’s east and south push the Russians back. The US-based entrepreneur angered Kiev late last week when he presented a ceasefire plan that would see Ukrainian territories cede to Russia.

Roman Sinicyn, a coordinator at the Serhiy Prytula Charity, a foundation that donates Starlink systems to the Ukrainian armed forces, said the problem could arise because SpaceX is trying to prevent their misuse by Russian forces.

“It is absolutely clear to me that this is being done by Starlink representatives to prevent the use of their technology by the Russian occupation forces,” Sinicyn said. The Ukrainian military and SpaceX need to coordinate more closely, he said.

Musk specified that “only a small percentage” of the Starlink terminals and services provided to Ukraine were purchased, adding: “We were purchased: “This operation cost SpaceX $80 million & will exceed $100 million by the end of the year”.

Three soldiers operating on the front lines confirmed that their Starlink systems stopped working during the fighting. Several terminals have been down in recent days in the recently liberated areas near Kharkiv, where the Ukrainians have pushed east into the Luhansk region, according to one of the soldiers, who is part of a special forces unit fighting in the area.

Musk triggered the outrage of Ukrainians following some tweets

Musk gave Kiev a boost in the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine by allowing its Starlink satellites to broadcast into the country, helping the military circumvent Moscow’s internet shutdown.

But this week he sparked outrage among Ukrainians and their allies by suggesting that the borders between Russia and Ukraine be determined by new referendums. He also declared that he recognizes the Crimean peninsula, unilaterally annexed by Moscow in 2014, and stated that, in his opinion, the Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine “prefer Russia”.

In 2021, Musk spoke via video link at a conference organized by Sergei Kirienko, Putin’s domestic policy chief, responsible for Russia’s assimilation of annexed territories. On Wednesday, Musk wrote in a tweet that he spoke with the Russian president last year.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on Musk’s video meeting with Putin on Thursday and said he had no knowledge of Starlink being accessible in Russia.

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