Musk says SpaceX cannot fund Ukraine’s Starlink network indefinitely

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Elon Musk said on Friday that rocket company SpaceX cannot indefinitely fund Starlink internet service in Ukraine, which has helped the country’s civilians and military stay online during the war with Russia.

Musk’s comment on Twitter followed a media report that SpaceX had asked the Pentagon to pay Starlink’s donations. The billionaire has engaged in online battles with Ukrainian officials over a peace plan he has put forward that Ukraine says is too generous to Russia.

The billionaire who runs Tesla said Starlink says it spends roughly $20 million a month maintaining satellite services in Ukraine. He recently said that SpaceX has spent about $80 million to enable and support Starlink there.

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“SpaceX is not asking to reimburse past expenses, but it also cannot fund the current system indefinitely *and* send several thousand terminals that have data usage up to 100 times greater than average households,” Musk wrote on Twitter on Friday. unbelievable”.

“We also had to defend against cyberattacks and jamming, which are getting more and more difficult,” Musk wrote.

CNN reported Thursday that SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon last month saying it could not continue to fund Starlink’s service in Ukraine and may have to stop funding it unless the U.S. military gives the company tens of millions of dollars a month.

A Pentagon spokesman said the Department of Defense “continues to work with industry to explore solutions for the Ukrainian armed forces as they repel Russia’s brutal and unjustified aggression.”

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.

Musk activated Starlink, its satellite broadband service, in Ukraine in late February after internet services were disrupted by the Russian invasion. Since then, SpaceX has given it thousands of terminals. Read more

Starlink was a key communication tool for the Ukrainian forces in their fight against the Russian forces.

On the official Twitter feed of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, a video clip shows Ukrainian soldiers praising this technology. “Thank God we have a Starlink. It’s a savior,” a soldier said, according to a translation posted with the video.

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Mikhailo Fedorov, said this week that Starlink services helped restore energy and communications infrastructure in sensitive areas after more than 100 attacks by Russian cruise missiles.

Russia describes its intervention in Ukraine as a “special military operation” and says it does not target civilians.

Musk drew widespread criticism from Ukrainians over his peace plan in which he suggested that Ukraine permanently cede Crimea to Russia, that new UN-sponsored referendums be held to determine the fate of Russian-controlled territories, and that Ukraine agree to neutrality.

Ukraine says it will never agree to relinquish lands captured by force, and legal referendums cannot be held in occupied lands where many people have been killed or expelled.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was among those who criticized Musk’s proposal. Read more

Ukraine’s outgoing ambassador to Germany, Andrei Melnik, also condemned the plan in a tweet that told Musk in profanity to leave.

Musk, responding to a post referring to the fate of the Starlink service and the ambassador’s note, said:

“We’re just following his recommendation.”

U.S. Republican Representative Adam Kingzinger cited Musk’s comments on Twitter, writing, “If there’s evidence for it

elonmusk plays games that’s it. I’m not sure someone like that can be trusted anymore to do business with our government.”

Although it is very expensive to deploy, satellite technology like Starlink can provide internet to people who live in rural areas or hard-to-serve areas where fiber optic cables and cell towers don’t reach. Technology can also be an important pillar when natural disasters disrupt communications.

SpaceX chief Gwen Shotwell previously told Reuters that France and Poland are helping fund shipments of Starlink stations to Ukraine. The US Agency for International Development said in April that it had purchased some of the terminals from SpaceX, and that the internet service was made possible by a “group of stakeholders” that included donations from SpaceX.

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Additional reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru, David Shepardson and Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Robert Purcell and Alistair Bell

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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