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Washington Post: Ukrainian troops' Starlink connection suffered systemic failure amid Russian offensive

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 17, 2024 5:43 PM 2 min read
A Ukrainian soldier uses a Starlink terminal during military exercises in Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine, in June 2023. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto/Getty Images)
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Starlink terminals operated by Ukraine's 125th Territorial Defense Brigade in Kharkiv Oblast were completely disabled in the first such incident since 2022, the Washington Post reported on May 17, citing unnamed Ukrainian soldiers on the ground.

Some of the soldiers the Washington Post spoke to said that the disruption contributed to Russia's breakthrough in the area. Moscow launched a new offensive with 30,000 troops on May 10, targeting Kharkiv Oblast, which is situated at the border with Russia in northeastern Ukraine.

"This was the biggest problem, we didn’t see how they were moving, we only worked through radio or through phones where they still worked," a Ukrainian soldier fighting in Kharkiv Oblast told the Washington Post.

The drone feeds that soldiers relied on to keep track of Russian movements "completely disappeared," he said.

Elon Musk's SpaceX company began providing the Starlink terminals to Ukraine shortly after the Russian full-scale invasion in February 2022. Starlink has since become indispensable to Ukraine's ability to communicate on the battlefield.

Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said on May 17 that the scope of Russian advances in Kharkiv Oblast has widened. At the same time, Syrskyi said Moscow's troops had failed to make a breakthrough but acknowledged there would be "tough battles ahead."

Syrski's comments came a day after President Volodymyr Zelensky told journalists that Russian troops were able to advance as far as 10 kilometers (6 miles) deep during their offensive in Kharkiv Oblast, but the front in the region has been stabilized.

Putin claims Russia has ‘no plans to capture Kharkiv as of today’
Russia has no plans to capture Kharkiv “as of today” and is attacking Kharkiv Oblast in order to create a so-called buffer zone in the oblast to prevent shelling in Belgorod, President Vladimir Putin claimed on May 17.
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