The Ukrainian government has confirmed that Russian forces are using Starlink, a satellite-based internet service provided by SpaceX, in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The confirmation came after intercepting radio communications of Russia’s 83rd Assault Brigade, which is operating near the towns of Klishchiivka and Andriivka in the Donetsk region.
The use of Starlink terminals produced by Elon Musk’s SpaceX is becoming increasingly common among Russian forces, according to Ukrainian intelligence officials. This is concerning as it could be seen as an attempt to undermine Kyiv’s ability to communicate with its own troops on the battlefield.
SpaceX has denied any business ties with Russia’s government or military, stating that they do not sell or ship equipment to the country. However, there have been reports of Russian troops using Starlink terminals in areas occupied by Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
According to Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Russian troops may be obscuring their use of Starlink by sending a fake GPS signal. This would make it difficult for SpaceX to detect and deactivate the terminal if necessary.
Despite initial support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in 2014, relations between SpaceX and Kyiv have cooled over time. In 2022, Elon Musk denied Ukraine’s request to activate Starlink near Moscow-annexed Crimea due to concerns about being explicitly complicit in a major act of war.