Russian forces are using Starlink terminals produced by Elon Musk’s SpaceX to facilitate communication in occupied areas of eastern Ukraine, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine alleged on Sunday.
The agency published an audio clip of what it said was an intercepted conversation between Russian soldiers appearing to confirm that members of Russia’s 83rd Guards Air Assault Brigade were using Starlink devices in the occupied Donetsk region.
The Russian military’s use of Starlink terminals was beginning to take on a “systemic nature”, according to the agency’s press office.
On Thursday, SpaceX officials said that the company did “not do business of any kind with the Russian government or its military”, and promised to “investigate and take actions” against any unauthorised use of its technology, following Ukrainian media reports that Russia had been using Starlink terminals along the frontline for several months.
Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Jurgensen told American military news website Defense One that US officials were aware of the reports, but referred questions regarding them to Ukraine.
Starlink terminals have been used by Ukrainian forces since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion almost two years ago, when SpaceX provided them to the Ukrainian government to ensure stable communications in the country.
Kyiv criticised Musk’s refusal to grant Ukraine access to Starlink over Crimea in September, where it had been planning a drone strike on Russian naval forces. Musk later stressed he had done so to avoid complicity in what he said would have been “a major act of war”.