Espreso. Global

Musk comments on Starlink shutdown near Crimea, Ukraine responds

8 September, 2023 Friday

American billionaire Elon Musk confirms that Starlink did not operate near the temporarily occupied Crimea so that the Ukrainian Armed Forces could not strike at the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine is outraged


Musk said this in his comments on X (Twitter). 

In response to the information that the SpaceX founder had turned off the system, he clarified that it did not work in Crimea at all.  

"The Starlink regions in question were not activated. SpaceX did not deactivate anything," he wrote.

At the same time, Musk confirmed that he had rejected Ukraine's request to activate Starlink because of concerns about a possible attack against the Russian fleet.

"There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol. The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor. If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation," Musk explained.

The day before, CNN reported that writer Walter Isaacson wrote about the Starlink shutdown in Elon Musk's biography.

"As Ukrainian submarine drones strapped with explosives approached the Russian fleet, they lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly," Isaacson writes.

It is noted that the businessman tried to prevent the covert operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine because he feared that Russia would use nuclear weapons in response to the attack on Crimea.

The biographer noted that Musk's concern about a "mini-Pearl Harbor" was not justified in Crimea. According to him, this episode reveals the unique position in which Musk found himself during the war in Ukraine, as he became an influential agent that US officials could not ignore.

The biographer noted that when Ukraine started using Starlink terminals for offensive actions against Russia, Musk began to rethink the decision to provide the systems to our country.

"Starlink was not meant to be involved in wars. It was so people can watch Netflix and chill and get online for school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes," the businessman said.

Isaacson said in the book that after a conversation with Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine's Minister of Digital Transformation, in which he urged Musk to re-enable drone access to Starlink, the businessman replied that he was "impressed with the design of the submarine drones but that he wouldn’t turn satellite coverage back on for Crimea because Ukraine was now going too far and inviting strategic defeat."

After that, in October last year, Musk refused to pay the bills for Starlink terminals because 

"SpaceX had spent tens of millions of its own money sending the satellite equipment to Ukraine". However, later, particularly after the Pentagon announced its readiness to pay for the system, the businessman changed his mind and continued to pay for Starlink support in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s response

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of Ukraine’s Office of the President, called Musk's actions a mixture of ignorance and a big ego, which resulted in large human casualties.

"Sometimes a mistake is much more than just a mistake. By not allowing Ukrainian drones to destroy part of the Russian military (!) fleet via Starlink interference, Elon Musk allowed this fleet to fire Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities. As a result, civilians, children are being killed. This is the price of a cocktail of ignorance and big ego," he wrote.

"However, the question still remains: why do some people so desperately want to defend war criminals and their desire to commit murder? And do they now realize that they are committing evil and encouraging evil?" Podolyak added.

Elon Musk and the disconnection of Starlink in Ukraine

In October 2022, a series of provocative tweets appeared on Elon Musk's verified account. In particular, he suggested how peace could be achieved in Ukraine and offered to support or not his proposal. Among the points published in Musk's poll are "to hold another referendum in the Ukrainian territories temporarily occupied by Russia" and "to give Crimea to Russia". In his comments, Musk was offered to demilitarize Russia and advised to learn history.

On October 14, SpaceX informed the Pentagon that it refuses to fund Starlink satellite communications services in Ukraine. In addition, the letter also asked the Pentagon to take over funding for Ukraine's government and military use of the Starlink system, which SpaceX claims will cost more than $120 million by the end of the year and could cost about $400 million over the next 12 months.

The Pentagon commented on the Starlink situation and assured that Ukraine would continue to have everything it needs on the battlefield.

On October 24, Musk said that Starlink would continue to operate in Ukraine even if the Pentagon refused to fund it.

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