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Budanov: Russia using thousands of SpaceX Starlink terminals in Ukraine

by Olena Goncharova February 16, 2024 6:59 AM 2 min read
Ukrainian military intelligence (HUR) chief Kyrylo Budanov during a meeting with the relatives of Ukrainian prisoners of war who Russia claims were on the Il-76 transport plane that crashed over Russia's Belgorod Oblast, on Jan. 26, 2024. (Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War/Facebook)
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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.

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.

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. Until now, Russian forces have lacked a similarly secure communication system.

Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov said in the interview that private Russian companies acquire Starlink terminals through intermediaries who falsely present the purchases as for personal use. The equipment is then delivered to Russia via neighboring countries, including former Soviet republics. Russian army units, down to the company level, are actively seeking to obtain Starlink terminals, often by pooling money for the purchases, according to the intelligence chief.

Budanov mentioned that Starlink service has been operational on occupied territory for “quite a long time,” although he did not provide further details. When asked whether he knew from personal experience, he replied: “Of course.” Ukraine’s military-intelligence agency, known as HUR, has units that often work behind enemy lines.

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