WASHINGTON (Agencies): In a surprising revelation, billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk has disclosed that he played a pivotal role in preventing Ukraine from launching an attack on Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet last year by denying Starlink internet access. This revelation has stirred controversy and a strong response from Kyiv.
Starlink, a satellite-based communications system operated by Musk’s company SpaceX, has been deployed in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion of the country in February 2022. It has served as a critical tool for Ukrainian forces, enabling advanced communication capabilities in areas where traditional means of communication are compromised.
However, Musk’s admission has raised questions about the reliability of Starlink as a strategic asset for Ukraine, particularly given his prior controversial statements and actions, such as acknowledging Russia’s claim to sovereignty over Crimea.
The incident in question revolves around Ukraine’s ambitious plan to cripple Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet stationed in Sevastopol, a strategic harbor in Crimea, which Russia occupied and claimed to annex in 2014.
Musk revealed on his social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter) that Ukrainian government authorities had urgently requested the activation of Starlink all the way to Sevastopol, with the apparent intention of incapacitating a significant portion of the Russian fleet. Musk’s refusal to comply with this request stemmed from his belief that such an action would make SpaceX complicit in a major act of war and escalate the conflict.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, vehemently condemned Musk’s decision, asserting that by preventing Ukrainian drones from destroying part of the Russian fleet using Starlink interference, Musk indirectly allowed the Russian fleet to launch Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities, resulting in civilian casualties, including children.
The Pentagon, when asked about the acceptability of Musk’s actions as a US government contractor, did not offer a direct response. Instead, they stated their awareness of the situation and their contract with Starlink but cited operational security reasons for not disclosing specific capabilities or operational details.
Musk’s account of thwarting the attack on Russia’s fleet was prompted by information from an upcoming biography by Walter Isaacson. According to Isaacson’s account, Musk had deactivated Starlink in the Crimea area in September 2022 when the Ukrainian military attempted a covert attack on the Russian naval fleet in Sevastopol using small drone submarines guided by Starlink. Musk had reportedly received warnings from the Russian ambassador that such an attack could trigger a nuclear response. Musk directed his engineers to disable Starlink coverage within 100 kilometers of the Crimean coast, causing the Ukrainian drone subs to lose connectivity and wash ashore harmlessly.
In response, Musk disputed Isaacson’s narrative, asserting that the Starlink regions in question were not activated, and SpaceX did not deactivate anything.
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and current senior security advisor to President Vladimir Putin, commended Musk for his actions as described in the book, expressing concerns about the possibility of a retaliatory nuclear strike. Musk also called for a truce in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, emphasizing the loss of lives and the minimal territorial changes resulting from the conflict.
Ukraine’s leadership remains committed to driving out Russian troops and reclaiming occupied territory, with the continued support of the US government in terms of weaponry and other assistance to counter Putin’s invasion.