The use of Starlink by Russia in the Donetsk region has been confirmed by Ukrainian intelligence, which intercepted the radio communications of Russia’s 83rd Assault Brigade. An audio clip posted on social media showed an exchange between two soldiers using the terminals produced by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Andrii Yusov, a representative from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, stated that Russia’s use of Starlink was becoming increasingly systemic.
Starlink terminals were sent to Ukraine shortly after Russia began its invasion and have been used to facilitate Kyiv’s battlefield communications. Ukraine’s General Staff did not specify how many terminals they believed Russia had or how they might have been obtained. In a statement on Thursday, Starlink said it does not do business with Russia’s government or military and is not active in Russia. However, the company did not mention the possible use of Starlink in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.
According to Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Russian troops may be obscuring their use of Starlink to SpaceX by sending a fake GPS signal. Musk initially gave his full support to Ukraine when Russia first invaded, with SpaceX sending “thousands” of Starlink terminals to the country. However, relations have since cooled and in 2022, Musk denied Kyiv’s request to activate Starlink near Moscow-annexed Crimea due to concerns about being explicitly complicit in a major act of war.