SpaceX Stops Ukraine’s Ability To Use Starlink Internet For Drones
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has placed restrictions on the Ukrainian military’s ability to use Starlink internet, according to a new report from Reuters. And that means it will be harder for Ukraine to use drones in the country’s fight against Russia.
SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell announced the restrictions at the 25th annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, though it’s not immediately clear when the restrictions were enacted.
“We know the military is using them for comms, and that’s okay. But our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes,” Shotwell said, according to Reuters.
Shotwell said its Starlink internet was only intended for humanitarian purposes in Ukraine and that the, “Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement.”
SpaceX and the deployment of its satellite-based Starlink internet became a point of controversy last year after news leaked that SpaceX no longer wanted to pay for free internet access in the country. SpaceX, which only exists as a company due to billions of dollars in government money, had privately told leaders at the Pentagon that it wanted the U.S. government to foot the bill.
“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” SpaceX’s director of government sales, Bryon Hargis, wrote to the Pentagon in September 2022, according to CNN.
But the leak of that request sent CEO Elon Musk on the defensive and he backtracked on Twitter. Musk received criticism over his waffling on support for Ukraine, though his fears about the potential for nuclear war were certainly justified.
An advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Anton Gerashchenko, tweeted on Thursday he felt “gratitude” for the existence of Starlink in the country, noting “I’m certain they saved hundreds of thousands of lives.” But Gerashchenko took issue with the SpaceX president’s characterization that Starlink was being used by Ukraine for offensive purposes.
“Ukraine doesn’t offense, we liberate, protect ours. No neutrality in fight of good and evil,” Gerashchenko tweeted.
The news of the restriction on drones in Ukraine comes as the one-year anniversary of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is coming up later this month on February 24. The number of Ukrainians killed or wounded is believed to be roughly 100,000 people including about 30,000 civilian deaths, according to the latest figures from the New York Times. The number of Russians killed or wounded is somewhere between 180,000 and 200,000 according to that same report.