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CNN: Musk turned off Starlink near Crimea to disrupt Ukraine's strike against Russian fleet

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk September 7, 2023 7:28 PM 2 min read
Elon Musk, billionaire and chief executive officer of Tesla, at the Viva Tech fair in Paris, France, on Friday, June 16, 2023. (Photo credit: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Elon Musk secretly instructed his engineers to turn off Starlink satellite communications near Crimea last year to prevent a Ukrainian submarine drone attack against Russian military ships, CNN reported on Sept. 7, citing an excerpt from an upcoming book by Walter Isaacson.

As the drones loaded with explosives approached the Russian fleet, they "lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly," Isaacson reportedly wrote in a biography titled "Elon Musk," to be released on Sept. 12.

According to the author, Musk's decision was driven by fear of Moscow's nuclear retaliation, sparked by the billionaire's conversations with senior Russian officials.

Ukraine's Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov then reportedly pleaded with Musk to restore the drones' connectivity.

The billionaire himself later denied that he had Starlink deactivated near Crimea, saying it had not been active in that region in the first place. However, he also said that there was a plan by Ukraine to strike at the Russian fleet near the occupied peninsula's coast, which Musk prevented.

"There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol," Musk claimed on his social media platform X.

"The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor. If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation."

The Kyiv Independent could not verify the claim.

Musk's SpaceX began providing the Starlink satellite internet system to Ukraine shortly after the Russian full-scale invasion in February 2022. The system has kept many Ukrainians online despite power outages and Russia's attacks on the country's internet infrastructure.

In October 2022, Musk said he could no longer keep Starlink in Ukraine operational due to high upkeep costs and requested funding from the Pentagon. The billionaire later changed his statement and said Starlink will stay online regardless of the Pentagon's support.

According to an article by The New Yorker published on Aug. 21, Musk held conversations with Vladimir Putin – though the billionaire denied talking to the Russian president – which had an effect on Musk's change of position regarding Ukraine.

How Ukraine’s prodigy minister is innovating the battlefield
Mykhailo Fedorov and his team “make things happen,” Time magazine wrote when it selected Fedorov as one of its 100 emerging world leaders in September. “It is like it is in his DNA to take action,” his profile read. Fedorov, Ukraine’s 31-year-old deputy prime minister and minister of digital
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