Ukraine’s defense forces reportedly experienced failures with their Starlink communications equipment, causing obstacles in their attempts to regain control of Russian-occupied regions. The failures have led to a “catastrophic” loss of communication between Ukrainian soldiers deployed on the front line in recent weeks, according to an unnamed senior Ukrainian government official who spoke to the Financial Times.
Thousands of Starlink systems, made by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, have been provided to Ukrainian troops to operate drones, receive information and provide seamless communication between soldiers in areas without secure networks. Additionally, the terminals also provide Internet connectivity to Ukrainian civilians through a small antenna.
In recent weeks, several blackouts have been reported by Ukrainian fighters moving into Russian-occupied areas, including Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk, according to the senior official. All four regions were annexed by Russia following referendums last month.
What could be the reason for the outages?
Another unnamed official said the disruptions, which occurred after Ukrainian soldiers crossed to liberate areas under Russian control, prompted multiple distress calls from soldiers to helplines. The coordinator of Serhiy Prytula Charity, an organization that facilitates Starlink donations to Ukrainian forces, said the recent failures may have happened because of SpaceX’s attempt to avoid its misuse by Russian troops.
“It is absolutely clear to me that this is being done by representatives of Starlink to prevent the use of their technology by Russian occupation forces,” said coordinator Roman Sinicyn.
Musk’s role in the Russian-Ukrainian war
The recent disruptions signify the crucial role of Musk’s communications systems in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Recently, the 51-year-old billionaire has come under fire for proposing peace plans to end the conflict. “Peace Ukraine-Russia: redo the elections of the annexed regions under the supervision of the UN. Russia leaves if that is the will of the people, Crimea is officially part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s mistake), Crimea’s water supply is assured, Ukraine remains neutral,” he wrote in a Twitter poll.
This sparked a reaction from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who asked in another Twitter poll: “Which @elonmusk do you like the most? – whoever supports Ukraine, whoever supports Russia.