Ukrainian intelligence has recently confirmed that Russia is using Starlink, a satellite-based internet service provided by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The confirmation came after intercepting the radio communications of Russia’s 83rd Assault Brigade, which was operating near the towns of Klishchiivka and Andriivka in the Donetsk region. According to a report by Andrii Yusov, a representative of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, Russia’s use of Starlink terminals is taking on a “systemic nature.”
The use of Starlink terminals in Ukraine has been hailed as an important tool facilitating Kyiv’s battlefield communications. However, it is not clear how many terminals Russia has or how they were obtained. In response to media reports this week that said Ukrainian troops had detected Russian use of the terminals several months ago, SpaceX issued a statement saying that it does not do business with Russia’s government or military. The company also stated 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 fake GPS signals. Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Defense One that Musk initially gave his full support to Ukraine when Russia first invaded but later denied Kyiv’s request to activate Starlink near Moscow-annexed Crimea due to concerns about being explicitly complicit in a major act of war. Despite this incident, Musk still sent “thousands” of Starlink terminals to Ukraine.