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Bloomberg: Pentagon blocks Russian military from accessing Starlink in Ukraine

by Rachel Amran May 9, 2024 11:42 PM 3 min read
The Starlink logo in an illustrative photo dated Nov. 10, 2023. (Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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The U.S. Pentagon is preventing the Russian military from using Starlink internet terminals operated on the battlefield in Ukraine, John Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy at the U.S. Department of Defense, said in an interview with Bloomberg on May 9.

Starlink, recognized for its superior security compared to cellular or radio signals, is deemed crucial for Ukrainian operations. Last year, the Pentagon reached an agreement with SpaceX to financially support access for the Ukrainian military.

Earlier this year,  Ukraine's military intelligence chief told the Wall Street Journal that Russian forces in Ukraine are using thousands of Starlink satellite communications terminals made by Elon Musk's SpaceX.

According to Plumb, the U.S. has become “heavily involved in working with the government of Ukraine and SpaceX to counter Russian illicit use of Starlink terminals."

Ukraine heavily depends on Starlink, having reported last year that approximately 42,000 terminals were in operation across the military, hospitals, businesses, and aid organizations.

“At this time we have successfully countered Russian use, but I am certain Russia will continue to try and find ways to exploit Starlink and other commercial communications systems,” Plumb said. "It will continue to be a problem, I think we’ve wrapped our heads around it and found good solutions with both Starlink and Ukraine.”

The American official did not specify what tactics are being used to block Russian access to Starlink terminals inside Ukraine.

US Democratic congressmen open investigation into Musk’s SpaceX, Russian alleged usage of Starlink
The letter by congressmen Jamie Raskin and Robert Garcia warned SpaceX’s president, Gwynne Shotwell, that the alleged use of Starlink by Russian forces represented “a serious threat to Ukraine’s security, Ukrainian lives, and U.S. national security.”

Following the publication of Budanov's interview with the WSJ, two Democrats in the U.S. Congress, Jamie Raskin and Robert Garcia, opened an investigation into Elon Musk's SpaceX company, demanding information on Russia's alleged usage of the Starlink satellite internet terminals.

Ukraine's military intelligence said that Russia has allegedly been purchasing Starlink terminals from "Arab countries," citing intercepted communications.

Elon Musk denied that SpaceX had sold Starlink units to Russia and said Starlink would not connect to any devices there.

Both military intelligence and media reports said that Russian forces connected Starlink in occupied Ukraine, not on Russian territory.

Plumb affirmed that SpaceX has become a "reliable partner" in Ukraine.

“To me, they’re a very reliable partner, and they are also ‘innovating at speed,’ providing services that are useful to the Defense Department.”

SpaceX began providing the Starlink terminals to Ukraine shortly after the Russian full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Budanov: Russia using thousands of SpaceX Starlink terminals in Ukraine
Russian forces in Ukraine are using thousands of Starlink satellite communications terminals made by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the Ukrainian military intelligence chief told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Feb. 15.
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