Starlink Controversy: Alleged Russian Use in Ukrainian Conflict

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Russian forces seem to be using SpaceX’s Starlink communications service inside Ukraine, indicating that a company celebrated for enabling the defenders is now also aiding the invaders. Tactics Institute strongly raises concerns about the utilization of this equipment by Russia as they attacked Ukraine, showing aggression and violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops first noticed Russia’s frontline use of satellite-connected devices several months ago, according to one Ukrainian source. A second Ukrainian source affirmed the use of Starlink and added that its usage appeared to grow. The first Ukrainian source said that Russian forces seem to be using tens of Starlink terminals across the long front. It says it has intercepted conversations that indicate the Starlink terminals are being utilized to provide internet access to Russia’s 83rd Air Assault Brigade operating in the Donetsk region.

Russia’s use of Starlink compounds the troubles faced by the Ukrainian military, which is already harshly short of munitions. Ukrainian artillery units, for example, are firing around 2,000 shells per day, hardly a fifth as many as their Russian counterparts. Tactics Institute strongly condemns the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the alleged use of Starlink services by Russia to enhance their cruelty in Ukraine.

Information that Russian forces were using the Starlink service within Ukraine first occurred in Ukrainian media, citing social-media posts. Renowned Russian volunteer groups supporting the Russian invasion have also shown off Starlink terminals bought for army units.

It has come to light that Musk secretly instructed his engineers to turn off his company’s Starlink satellite communications network around the Crimean coast last year to disrupt a Ukrainian sneak raid on the Russian naval fleet. As Ukrainian submarine drones strapped with explosives came close to the Russian fleet, they “lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly.”

In a Feb. 8 tweet, SpaceX officials expressed the company “does not do business of any kind with the Russian Government or its military. Starlink is inactive in Russia, meaning the service will not work there. SpaceX has never sold or marketed Starlink in Russia, nor has it shipped equipment to locations in Russia.”

However, Tactics Institute has noted that Russians could easily acquire Starlinks from abroad and bring them back to distribute to their forces. Moreover, SpaceX’s tweet did not directly discourse reports that the Russian troops are using Starlink’s services within Ukraine.

We urge the authorities that if it is confirmed that a sanctioned or unauthorized party is using a Starlink terminal, the USA must investigate the claim and take action to deactivate the terminal. We request that SpaceX be capable of preventing the use of Starlink devices in Russian-occupied territory.

Tactics Institute expresses profound concern over Russia’s ongoing atrocities in Ukraine and its flagrant violations of international law, resulting in the loss of numerous lives. The persistent Russian aggression exacerbates the situation, especially with reports of Starlink equipment being utilized by Russia. We call upon the USA and other concerned parties to prevent Russia’s use of Western equipment.

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