ELON Musk has backed down from his threat to cut off vital satellite internet service used by Ukrainian soldiers.
The sulky SpaceX founder had asked the Pentagon for millions of dollars to fund the Starlink service because he was emptying his money.
Musk, the world’s richest man, has been hailed a hero in Ukraine after providing 20,000 Starlink terminals for use on the battlefield.
Ukrainian troops are relying on the gadgets – which connect to the internet via Musk’s satellites – after Russia cut off ground communications.
But he became a villain in Kyiv’s eyes after complaining it was costing him too much money and suggesting US taxpayers foot the bill.
The Tesla mogul has since announced a dramatic reversal of his ambitious plans after the Pentagon apparently put its foot down.
He wrote in a scathing tweet: “Damn it…even if Starlink continues to lose money and other companies receive billions of taxpayer dollars, we will continue to fund the Ukrainian government for free.
Musk also denounced a US Department of Defense official who accused him of “hanging hope over the heads of millions” with his Starlink technology.
The source told the Washington Post that he tried to “slap the bill on the DoD for a system that no one asked for but that so many people now depend on.”
Musk called the official an “ignorant fool” and said the amount requested by SpaceX would have funded “a major battlefield advantage.”
In recent weeks, Starlink has been hit by mysterious blackouts, forcing soldiers to halt their counterattacks in the south and east.
But Musk said his company was working around the clock to thwart attacks from Russian hackers, whose “signal jamming systems are also improving.”
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov spoke in his defense in the middle of the Starlink line.
He tweeted: “Certainly @elonmusk is among the top private donors in the world supporting Ukraine. Starlink is an essential part of our critical infrastructure.”
It comes after Musk’s SpaceX company warned it would end Starlink service – because an ambassador was rude to him.
Musk caused outrage earlier this month with a Twitter poll suggesting a “peace” plan that involves Kyiv ceding Crimea and Donbass to the Kremlin.
It sparked a furious Twitter row with President Volodomyr Zelensky, who accused him of siding with the tyrant Putin.
He posted his own poll on Twitter asking, “Which @elonmusk do you like the most? Whoever supports Ukraine (or) whoever supports Russia.”
And Kyiv’s Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk tweeted bluntly: “F*** off is my very diplomatic response to you @elonmusk.”
There was even more fury after Musk had a phone call with Putin, who told him he would use nuclear weapons to keep Crimea.
Damn…even if Starlink continues to lose money and other companies receive billions of taxpayer dollars, we will continue to fund the Ukrainian government for free.
Musk then rejected Kyiv’s demands to expand Starlink to the peninsula, apparently because he feared it would trigger a nuclear war.
Meanwhile, Musk’s company had threatened to scrap the service entirely unless the Pentagon paid it tens of millions of dollars.
Documents seen by CNN claim that SpaceX has already spent $80 million and can no longer fund Starlink in Ukraine.
SpaceX also claimed the service could cost an additional $400 million over the next 12 months and suggested US taxpayers foot the bill.
The documents also reveal that SpaceX rebuffed a direct appeal to Elon Musk for 8,000 additional Starlink terminals from Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valeri Zaluzhny.
“We are unable to donate more terminals to Ukraine, or fund existing terminals indefinitely,” SpaceX’s director of government sales wrote to the Pentagon last month.
Musk appeared to confirm this in a Twitter response to a Kyiv-based reporter who linked the threat to the ambassador’s “f*** off” comment.
Musk tweeted: “We’re just following his recommendation” – adding a shrug emoji.
The billionaire’s supporters have accused him of being “mean-spirited”.
One said: “Not a very good advertisement for a service that many MoDs might consider and which turns out to be dependent on one person’s ego.”
Starlink has been hailed as a “game changer” for Ukrainian defenders, who relied on it for real-time information to counter Russia’s superior firepower with quick movements across the battlefield.
Musk’s satellite terminals have been spotted on armored cars and mobile artillery units on the front lines.
More recently, Starlink has proven vital to forces retaking swathes of Russian-held territory in Kharkiv and pushing deep into Kherson in stunning advances.
However, the troops encountered a stumbling block amid wide-ranging blackouts.
The FT reported that the outages resulted in a “catastrophic” loss of communication.
Sources told CNN the communications blackout affected the entire front line as it stood on September 30.
One said: “It has affected all efforts of Ukrainians to overcome this front.
“Starlink is the primary way for units on the battlefield to communicate.”
Troops had no advance warning of the unexplained blackouts – leaving them potentially vulnerable in combat, it is claimed.
The source added that when troops liberate an area, they must request Starlink services to be activated.
Musk hopes his Starlink network can provide internet coverage across the world, although reports claim he has agreed not to include China.
Just a few weeks ago, he boasted that another 52 satellites had been successfully launched into orbit, bringing the total to more than 2,300.