Elon Musk has hinted at the possibility of removing Ukraine’s access to his Starlink internet service, in a move which would almost certainly dramatically disrupt the country’s access to the web. The billionaire’s tweeted remarks came just days after he angered many Ukrainians with a proposal to end Russia’s war in their country that included ceding some territory, including Crimea.
Mr Musk posted: “SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households. This is unreasonable.”
The billionaire boss of Tesla subsequently added: “In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations & pay telcos for access to Internet via gateways.
“We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder.
“Burn is approaching ~$20M/month.”
Mr Musk recently said that SpaceX had spent about £71million ($80million) to enable and support Starlink in Ukraine.
CNN reported on Thursday that SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon last month saying it could not continue to fund the Starlink service in Ukraine and it may have to stop funding it unless the US military helped with tens of millions of dollars a month.
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Ukraine’s vice prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, said this week Starlink services have helped restore energy and communications infrastructure in critical areas after more than 100 Russian cruise missile attacks.
In March, he told The Washington Post of the Starlink service: “The quality of the link is excellent.
“We are using thousands – in the area of thousands – of terminals, with new shipments arriving every other day.”
Russia calls its intervention in Ukraine a “special military operation” and says it does not target civilians.
Musk drew widespread criticism from Ukrainians over his peace plan in which he proposed that Ukraine permanently cede the Crimea region to Russia, that new referendums be held under UN auspices to determine the fate of Russian-controlled territory, and that Ukraine agree to neutrality.
Ukraine says it will never agree to cede land taken by force, and lawful referendums cannot be held in occupied territory where many people have been killed or driven out.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky was among those who criticised Musk’s proposal.
Ukraine’s outgoing ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, also condemned the proposal in blunt terms, saying on Twitter: “F*** off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk.”
Musk, responding to a post referring to the fate of the Starlink service and the ambassador’s remark, said: “We’re just following his recommendation.”