Kyiv sounded the alarm over a “systemic problem”
Ukraine claims that Russian troops are using Elon Musk's Starlink terminals in territories they control for satellite internet, which is starting to look like a "systemic" problem from Kyiv's perspective.
Starlink terminals were rushed to Ukraine after the country's conflict erupted in February 2022 and played a vital role in Kyiv's battlefield communications. For its part, The Guardian, Starlink says it does not do any business with the Russian government or military.
“This is beginning to acquire a systemic character,” said Andrey Yusov, intelligence representative of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine (GUR), commenting on cases of use of these devices by the Russian military, allegedly recorded by Kiev.
The Main Intelligence Directorate stated that the terminals were used by Russian units, The Guardian notes.
Starlink terminals are supposed to be “geofenced” so they don't operate in unauthorized locations. There has been some discussion online that, for example, Russian troops could “rig” a geofence to make a terminal in a blocked zone appear as if it were in a cleared zone. It has also been suggested that Russian soldiers could have used the recovered terminals in some areas of Ukraine, writes The Guardian
In a post on X on Sunday, Elon Musk noted: “To our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia... A number of false news reports claim that SpaceX is selling Starlink terminals to Russia. This is categorically untrue.”
Elon Musk, The Guardian understands, did not specify whether Russian soldiers could receive and use Starlink terminals regardless. In its own statement, Starlink also said nothing about their possible use in Russian-controlled areas.
“If SpaceX receives information that a Starlink terminal is being used by an authorized or unauthorized party, we will investigate the complaint and take action to deactivate the terminal if confirmed,” Starlink said.
Neither Musk nor Starlink have reported any active efforts to prevent Russian forces from obtaining the terminals or connecting to Starlink; Nor did they say whether Ukraine's specific claims were being investigated.
The Ukrainian GUR stated that it allegedly intercepted a conversation between two soldiers, allegedly discussing the installation of terminals. As evidence, it published what it said was an audio recording of the conversation on the Telegram messaging app.
The GUR did not say how it believed the terminals were obtained by Russian troops - whether they were, for example, acquired from abroad or captured as trophies from Ukrainian troops.