Ukraine has confirmed that Russia is using Starlink after intercepting the radio communications of its 83rd Assault Brigade, which is operating near the towns of Klishchiivka and Andriivka in the Donetsk region. The use of Starlink terminals produced by Elon Musk’s SpaceX has taken on a “systemic nature,” according to Andrii Yusov, a Ministry of Defense representative in Ukraine.
Starlink terminals are used to connect to SpaceX’s satellites in low Earth orbit to provide internet services. They were sent to Ukraine shortly after Russia began its invasion and have been hailed as an important tool facilitating Kyiv’s battlefield communications. However, it is not clear how many terminals Russia has or how they might have been obtained.
SpaceX has stated that it does not do business with Russia’s government or military and that it is not active in Russia and has not sold or shipped equipment to the country. However, Russian troops may be obscuring their use of Starlink by sending a fake GPS signal, according to Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
Musk initially gave his full support to Ukraine when Russia first invaded, with SpaceX sending “thousands” of Starlink terminals to the country. But relations between Musk and Ukraine have cooled after Musk 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.”