Ukrainian forces have intercepted radio communications of Russia’s 83rd Assault Brigade operating near the towns of Klishchiivka and Andriivka in the Donetsk region, confirming that Moscow is using Starlink terminals produced by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The use of these terminals is taking on a “systemic nature,” according to Andrii Yusov, a Ministry of Defense representative. This news comes after media reports that said Ukrainian troops had detected Russia’s use of Starlink several months ago.
Starlink terminals, which connect to SpaceX’s satellites in low Earth orbit to provide internet services, were sent to Ukraine shortly after Russia began its invasion. They have been hailed as an important tool facilitating Kyiv’s battlefield communications. However, SpaceX has not specified how many terminals it believes Russia has or how they might have been obtained. In a statement on Thursday, the company said that it does not do business with Russia’s government or military and is not active in Russia. It also stated that it has not sold or shipped equipment to the country.
However, there are concerns that Russian troops may be obscuring their use of Starlink by sending a fake GPS signal, as mentioned by Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. While Musk initially gave his full support to Ukraine when Russia first invaded and sent “thousands” of Starlink terminals to the country, relations have since cooled between him and Kyiv due to their differing views on how best to handle the conflict in Ukraine. According to Musk, he denied Kyiv’s request to activate Starlink near Moscow-annexed Crimea in 2022 because doing so would have made SpaceX “explicitly complicit in a major act of war.”