Russian forces now using Musk’s Starlink on Ukraine front line

Enlarge / Ukraine's GUR military intelligence unit made the claim following several reports in recent days that Russian forces were using Starlink's distinctive square-shaped terminals.

Pierre Crom/Getty Images

Russian forces are using Starlink terminals on the front lines in Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian military, which believes that the adoption of Elon Musk's satellite Internet service by Moscow troops was becoming “systemic.”

Ukraine's military intelligence unit GUR said on Telegram on Sunday that radio interceptions confirmed the use of Starlink terminals by Russian units operating in the occupied Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

“Yes, there have been recorded cases of Russian occupiers using these devices,” Andriy Yusov, a GUR officer, told RBC-Ukraine. “It’s starting to take on a systemic nature.”

GUR made the assertion following several reports in recent days that Russian forces were using Starlink devices, including a sighting reported by media outlet Defense One, of one of the company's distinctive square-shaped receivers, near Russian positions.

A group of Russian volunteers posted on social media the devices they claimed to have purchased for Russian forces.

SpaceX, owner of Starlink, has denied reports that it sold equipment to the Russian government or military. In an article on X on Sunday, Musk, the company's chief executive, said: “There are a number of false reports claiming that SpaceX is selling Starlink terminals to Russia. This is categorically false. To our knowledge, no Starlink has been sold directly or indirectly to Russia.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, told reporters Monday that Starlink “is not certified.” [in Russia], so it cannot and is not officially provided here. It cannot be used in any way,” according to Russian newswire Interfax.

“We probably shouldn't get into a discussion between the kyiv regime and businessman Musk,” Peskov said.

Musk supplied thousands of Starlink terminals to Ukraine to help it repel Russian troops shortly after their full-scale invasion in February 2022, giving Kiev's forces a valuable technological advantage in the form of high-speed internet for communications, targeting and battlefield management software. However, Kiev's praise for the businessman turned to fury when Musk began limiting Starlink's operations in areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces since 2014, including Crimea .

Indeed, Ukraine wanted its forces to be able to use the system for operations in areas of its territory controlled by Russia, although Kiev now complains that the Russians, as well as the Ukrainians, are using it in contested areas. But the introduction or reintroduction of so-called “geofencing” to prevent Russia's use of Starlink on the front line could also affect Ukraine's military postures given the proximity of the two sides' positions.

The apparent use of this technology by Russian forces to facilitate their invasion is another example of how Moscow's forces are adapting their tactics in response to Ukrainian innovations, as they did with the massive use of drones from Inexpensive and commercially available race.

Ukrainian media reported that Russian forces may have obtained the terminals through intermediaries in Dubai.

In response, SpaceX said on X: “Starlink does not operate in Dubai either. Starlink cannot be purchased in Dubai and SpaceX does not ship there either.

“Furthermore, Starlink has not authorized any third party intermediaries, resellers or distributors of any kind to sell Starlink in Dubai. If SpaceX learns that a Starlink terminal is being used by a sanctioned or unauthorized party, we will investigate the claim and take steps to deactivate the terminal if confirmed.

A biography of Musk by Walter Isaacson published last fall details how the tycoon refused to allow Starlink to be used by Ukrainian forces for a naval drone strike on Russian ships in Sevastopol. Musk said he feared it could trigger a nuclear response from Moscow.

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