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Russian armed forces use Starlink terminals in Ukraine, sources say

Elon Musk’s company once hailed for aiding Ukraine, now allegedly helps Russian invaders as well.
spacex limits ukraine use starlink internet
A Ukrainian soldier use a Starlink device somewhere in Ukraine. Source: theukrainians.org
Russian armed forces use Starlink terminals in Ukraine, sources say

Russian armed forces are using tens of Starlink terminals across the front, Ukrainian sources told Defense One on the condition of anonymity.

Ukraine relies on Starlink, donated by SpaceX, US military funds, and Ukrainian volunteers for effective communication and coordination of artillery strikes on Russian positions.

“When they have hundreds, it’ll be hard for us to live,” one of the sources said.

Initial reports of Russian forces employing the Starlink service in Ukraine surfaced in Ukrainian media, referencing posts on social media. Notably, Russian volunteer groups supporting the Russian war against Ukraine have also shown the terminals acquired for military units.

In February, SpaceX said the company “does not do business of any kind” with the Russian government or its military.

“Starlink is not active in Russia, meaning the service will not work in that country. SpaceX has never sold or marketed Starlink in Russia, nor has it shipped equipment to locations in Russia.

If Russian stores are claiming to sell Starlink for service in that country, they are scamming their customers,” the SpaceX said.

However, Russians can easily purchase Starlinks from abroad and then bring them back to distribute to their forces, Ukrainian sources said. Multiple Russian companies still advertise Starlinks for sale, including iMiele.ru and DJIRussia.

Moreover, SpaceX’s tweet did not specifically respond to claims of Russian forces using Starlink services in Ukraine. The company did say it world investigate such cases and deactivate the device if it “obtains knowledge that a Starlink terminal is being used by a sanctioned or unauthorized party.”

Nevertheless, Russian troops may have learned to obscure their use of the device to SpaceX by providing a false GPS signal to the Starlink terminal, “so it thinks the user is in Ukrainian-held territory,” according to Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

The expert also supported the idea that Ukraine could detect if Russia is using Starlink, as the terminals’ signals can be identified with signals intelligence equipment.

Todd Humphreys, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, suggests SpaceX might be cautious about closely monitoring Starlink locations. With Ukrainian forces at times pressing attacks against Russia, SpaceX may “fear that a mistake in defining the front line could leave Ukraine without Starlink coverage,” he said.

Earlier, Pentagon Spokesperson Jeff Jurgensen claimed that US officials were aware of the reports that said Russian troops were using Starlinks but referred questions to “our Ukrainian partners for any current operational information regarding satellite communications activities of this kind.”

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