Elon Musk’s SpaceX company has told the Pentagon it cannot donate more Starlink terminals to the Ukrainian Army or continue funding the ones it has until now, CNN reports citing letters from SpaceX to the Pentagon.
The letter requested that the Pentagon take over funding for Ukraine’s government and military use of Starlink, which SpaceX claims would cost more than $120 mn for the rest of the year and could cost close to $400 mn for the next 12 months.
There are roughly 20,000 Starlink terminals in Ukraine; about 85% of them were paid – or partially paid – for by countries like the US and Poland or other entities. Those entities also paid for about 30% of the internet connectivity. SpaceX has paid for 70%, $4,500 each month per unit for the most advanced service, despite most units signing up for the basic package at a $500 rate.
Musk tweeted on Friday that the “operation has cost SpaceX $80 million and will exceed $100 million by the end of the year.”
The letters seen by CNN revealed that Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi had privately addressed Musk, asking for an additional 8,000 terminals for the Ukrainian Army, who are reliant on the satellite services for communicating on the battlifield. Musk had redirected him to the Department of Defense.
This comes amid concerns about Musk’s allegiance. SpaceX’s main shareholder had stirred controversy with a series of tweets proposing a “peace plan” that was criticized by many online, including Ukrainian officials. Reports of Starlink outages in Ukrainian frontline units followed.
After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky raised the question of who Musk sides with, he responded that he “still very much support[s] Ukraine” but fears “massive escalation.”
Musk denied a report that alleged he met Russian President Putin before making the tweets.
As well, he made comments last month at an exclusive closed-door conference called “The Weekend,” telling a room full of attendees that Ukraine should seek peace now because they’ve had recent victories.
“This is the time to do it. They don’t want to do it, that’s for sure. But this is the time to do it,” he said, according to a person in the room. “Everyone wants to seek peace when they’re losing but they don’t want to seek peace when they’re winning. For now,” CNN reported.