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Ukraine: Starlink used by Putin’s forces near frontline

Ukrainian military intelligence said Russian forces are increasingly using Starlink terminals on the front lines, a new twist in kyiv’s uneasy relationship with Elon Musk’s internet service.

Intercepted conversations between Russian troops in the occupied Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine indicate that they had Starlink devices installed to access the Internet, the intelligence directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said on its website on Sunday.

“This is starting to become systemic,” the RBC-Ukraine news site quoted military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov as saying on Saturday about the use of Starlink by Russian forces.

Rumors about the use of the satellite service by Russian troops emerged on Ukrainian social media and media last week. Starlink Inc. is not active in Russia, meaning the service will not work in that country, the company said. saying Thursday on Musk’s X social media platform, formerly Twitter.

Starlink’s statement did not specify whether the ban would also apply to the four large areas of eastern and southern Ukraine that Russia illegally annexed in 2022, where hundreds of thousands of Russian troops are believed to be deployed. In the past it has restricted the use of Internet services in Russian-occupied territories.

The Wall Street Journal reported early Sunday, citing Ukrainian military intelligence, that Russian forces are using the satellite Internet system in occupied Ukraine.

Musk activated Starlink satellite service in Ukraine during the first months of Russia’s full-scale invasion, responding to kyiv’s request. Soon, the devices became a vital part of the country’s infrastructure, providing internet services in combat areas and beyond.

The Ukrainian military’s growing dependence on Starlink became increasingly evident, raising concerns from its creator. Last year, Musk admitted that he had prevented Starlink from being used as part of a Ukrainian attack on a Russian naval base on the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by the Kremlin in 2014. His comments sparked protests in Kiev and a consultation in the United States Senate.

Musk said on the All-In Podcast that he would have extended Starlink for Ukrainians in Crimea if US President Joe Biden had ordered him to do so, but no such directive came. He said Starlink had originally been disabled in Crimea due to US sanctions on Russia.

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