Ukrainian intelligence has confirmed that Russia is using Starlink after intercepting the radio communications of Russia’s 83rd Assault Brigade, which is operating near the towns of Klishchiivka and Andriivka in the Donetsk region. According to Andrii Yusov, a Ministry of Defense of Ukraine representative, Russia’s use of Starlink terminals produced by Elon Musk’s SpaceX was taking on a “systemic nature.”
SpaceX sent Starlink terminals to Ukraine shortly after Russia began its invasion and they have been hailed as an important tool facilitating Kyiv’s battlefield communications. However, Ukraine’s GUR did not specify how many terminals it believed Russia had or how they might have been obtained. Starlink said in a statement on Thursday that it does not do business with Russia’s government or military. The statement added that Starlink is not active in Russia and has not sold or shipped equipment to the country. However, it did not mention the possible use of Starlink in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.
“If SpaceX obtains knowledge that a Starlink terminal is being used by a sanctioned or unauthorized party, we investigate the claim and take actions to deactivate the terminal if confirmed,” it said. Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Defense One that Russian troops may be obscuring their use of Starlink to SpaceX by sending a fake GPS signal. It appears that relations between Musk and Ukraine have cooled since his initial support for the country when Russia first invaded. In 2022, he denied Kyiv’s request to activate Starlink near Moscow-annexed Crimea because doing so would have made SpaceX “explicitly complicit in a major act of war.”