American businessman Elon Musk stated that Starlink terminals were not sold to Russia, either directly or indirectly.
The terminals were rushed into Ukraine after Russia’s February 2022 invasion to aid communications. Musk’s satellite broadband service, which leverages thousands of low-orbit satellites, has been praised as an important tool for Ukraine’s defense.
Reports that Russian forces were using the Starlink service within Ukraine first appeared in Ukrainian media on 8 February, citing social media evidence. Prominent Russian “volunteer groups” supporting the invasion have also flaunted Starlink purchases for army units.
“Cases of the Russian occupiers’ use of the given devices have been registered. It is beginning to take on a systemic nature,” said the Ukrainian defence ministry’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) spokesman Andriy Yusov.
Yusov cited units like Russia’s 83rd Airborne Brigade around the contested Klishchiivka and Andriivka in the partially-occupied eastern Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine.
GUR also released an audio intercept of Russian soldiers discussing setting up Starlink as proof. However, it remains unclear whether terminals were captured, imported, or obtained otherwise.
SpaceX can restrict Starlink usage in occupied areas but Russian troops may be obscuring its operation.
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