FT reports disruptions to Starlink Internet connections for military on the frontline, Elon Musk responds

8 October 2022, 01:51 PM
Puppies next to the Starlink terminal in the liberated Liman area of Donetsk region, October 7, 2022 (Photo:REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak)

Puppies next to the Starlink terminal in the liberated Liman area of Donetsk region, October 7, 2022 (Photo:REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak)

Ukrainian military and civil officials have reported disruptions on the frontline to the vital Starlink space-based Internet network used by Ukraine’s military, UK newspaper the Financial Times wrote on Oct. 7, citing its own sources.

A high-ranked Ukrainian government official said some of the disruptions had led to “catastrophic” losses of communications, particularly during Ukrainian defenders’ breakthroughs into territories controlled by the occupiers, as well as during crucial battles.

Such incidents were more widespread and serious in the south of Ukraine, but also took place along the front line in the east and northeast of the country, where a Ukrainian counter-offensive continues, reports the FT.

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According to another Ukrainian official, communication failures were widespread and led to calls from servicemen to hotlines.

Satellite internet from Starlink started operating in Ukraine on March 1. In the first days of the full-scale war, the Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, asked Elon Musk to send Starlink satellite internet stations. The first batch had arrived in Ukraine within two days.

Roman Sinitsyn, coordinator of Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation, which donates Starlink systems to the Armed Forces, said the problem could have occurred because Musk’s SpaceX company, which operates the system, was trying to prevent its unlawful use by the Russian occupiers. According to Sinitsyn, the disruptions occurred in areas liberated from Russian troops most recently, so it had not yet been publicly reported.

Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov and the press secretary of the Commander-in-Chief of the AFU Valery Zaluzhny declined to comment, the FT reports.

Three Ukrainian defenders, who are currently on the frontline, confirmed that their Starlink systems stopped working during the fighting. Also, in the last few days, several terminals have not worked in the recently liberated areas of Kharkiv Oblast.

Two other Ukrainian servicemen, however, told reporters earlier this week that their Starlink systems were working properly in the recently liberated territories east of Izyum and in Kherson Oblast.

On Oct. 7, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, tweeted that the FT's report that the Starlink terminals and services were paid for was not true. According to Musk, only a small percentage of the systems were paid for, and by the end of the year, the amount allocated for this by SpaceX will exceed $100 million.

“As for what's happening on the battlefield, that's classified,” Musk said.

In the following tweet, he added that he is “in regular contact” with the Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov.

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