Elon Musk Says He Can’t Cover Ukraine Starlink Costs After Diplomat’s Insult

KYIV — Elon Musk said on Friday his space company could not continue to fund the Starlink satellite service that kept Ukraine and its military online during the war, and suggested he cut the internet for free after an ambassador Ukrainian insulted him on Twitter.

A Starlink shutdown would cripple the Ukrainian military’s main mode of communication and could cripple its defense by giving a major advantage to Russia, which has sought to jam signals and phone service in eastern and eastern combat zones. from South.

The world’s richest man, by Bloomberg estimates, Musk said his company SpaceX does not want reimbursement for past spending on Ukraine. But, he tweeted, he also “can’t fund the existing system indefinitely and ship several thousand additional terminals with data usage up to 100 times that of typical households.” It is unreasonable.

He also mocked the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, who had choice words for Musk last week after Tesla’s chief executive tweeted a “peace plan” for the war in Ukraine that would work in favor of Russia.

“F—off is my very diplomatic response to you @elonmusk,” Melnyk said at the time.

“We’re just following his recommendation,” Must tweeted early Friday. The ambassador declined to comment on Friday, while his press secretary told the Post that his earlier comment was a specific response to Musk’s tweet about the peace talks.

Starlink, a unit of Musk’s SpaceX company, uses terminals with antennas typically mounted on rooftops to access satellite internet in rural or disconnected areas. Ukrainian forces have used it to broadcast live drone feeds, correct artillery fire and contact home since Musk began sending terminals earlier in the war as Ukraine faced the threat Internet outages due to Russian strikes and cyberattacks.

Elon Musk’s Starlink keeps Ukrainians online when the traditional internet fails

Ukraine has received thousands of antennas from Musk’s companies and his European allies, which has proven to be “very effective,” the country’s digital transformation minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, told The Washington Post in a statement. interview in March.

From tweets about Taiwan to rap star Ye, Musk’s remarks have raised alarm bells about what he could do with Twitter if he were to own the platform.

The latest scrutiny came this month as Musk tweeted a plan to end the conflict that could help the Kremlin lock in territorial gains and included Ukraine giving up on its aspirations to reclaim Crimea, which the Russia has controlled it since annexing the peninsula in 2014.

In a jab at the billionaire’s peace bid on Twitter, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted a poll asking his supporters which Elon Musk they preferred: ‘He who supports Ukraine’ or ‘He who supports Russia’ .

Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin doesn’t care to offend his cause

Prior to the proposal that sparked an online storm and the tweet in question from the Ukrainian ambassador, SpaceX had already warned the US Department of Defense that it could no longer afford to fund the Starlink system in Ukraine in a letter dated of September 8. CNN first reported Thursday.

The report says the letter asks the Pentagon to cover Ukraine’s new request and costs for the remainder of the year, acknowledging that others, including Kyiv allies, have also helped fund the terminals sent so far. ‘now.

A senior US defense official confirmed late Thursday that Musk had privately asked the Pentagon to pay and said there was no comparable system with such broad applicability. The bill is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars over the next year, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The official also had critical words for Musk, saying the world’s richest man “dangles hope over the heads of millions, then sticks the DoD with the bill for a system that no one asked but so many now depend on”.

“Elon is going to Elon,” the official added.

Musk said on Friday that the Starlink operation in Ukraine cost SpaceX $80 million and will reach $100 million by the end of the year, including providing terminals, maintaining satellites and ground stations and other costs. “We also had to defend against cyberattacks and jamming, which are becoming increasingly difficult,” he wrote.

Elon Musk tweets ‘peace plan’ for Ukraine. Chaos ensues.

The Ukrainian military has become dependent on Starlink to quickly share information with senior commanders. Roman Kovalenko, company commander of the 72nd Mechanized Brigade fighting on the frontline in the eastern Donetsk region, said units use radios less now because they are not as reliable.

“Fighting without Starlink service on the front line is like fighting without a weapon,” Kovalenko said. “Honestly, I have no idea what communication between us will be like here without any Starlink service.”

Satellite internet is particularly useful for the increased use of drones by the Ukrainian military. With a stable connection, aerial reconnaissance units can live broadcast their drone feed, allowing artillery forces to identify targets and correct their fire in real time. Before that, Kovalenko said, infantry soldiers in the trenches had to locate artillery strikes on their own, which was less effective and also put them at risk.

“I would say that the efficiency of our work without Starlink would drop by around 60% or more,” Kovalenko said. “And we should use more ammunition, which we are saving now.”

He and others said they had suffered breakdowns near the front line in recent weeks, but a soldier from an aerial reconnaissance unit described them as “insignificant”.

Vognyk, a 25-year-old junior sergeant, said the Ukrainian army and volunteers would pay for the service themselves if necessary. “In my opinion, it’s his right, his property,” he said of Musk. “We can thank him for the number of Starlinks he provided to Ukraine.”

After Ukrainian troops recaptured the town of Izyum in the northeast region of Kharkiv in recent weeks, residents gathered around a Starlink system that was brought in so they could get a connection up to that the mobile network is restored there.

In his brigade, Kovalenko said, soldiers often travel to his position to use his Starlink so they can connect to the internet and send their families a quick message that they are alive and well.

“I hope that even if the situation is not resolved officially, our volunteers will collect the necessary funds to pay for this service,” he said. “We really need Starlink.”

Francis reported from London. Kamila Hrabchuk in Kyiv contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment