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26 Feb, 2022 15:27

Ukraine tries to enlist Elon Musk against Russia

Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov wants the SpaceX CEO to provide Starlink stations
Ukraine tries to enlist Elon Musk against Russia

Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov called on Saturday for SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to “provide Ukraine with Starlink stations” and use his public platform to encourage “sane Russians” to oppose their government.

“While you try to colonize Mars – Russia try to occupy Ukraine!” Fedorov wrote in a tweet to Musk. “While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people!”

“We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand,” Fedorov’s message concluded.

Musk’s Starlink project is an ambitious attempt to install a grid of satellites in the Earth’s orbit to provide internet access across the globe. SpaceX has thus far put more than 1,700 Starlink satellites into orbit, and the company plans on launching more than 40,000 in total. However, while these satellites pass over Ukraine, there are no ground stations in the country to make use of the network. The nearest ground station is located in the Polish village of Wola Krobowska.

Musk has thus far refrained from commenting on the conflict in Ukraine, nor given any indication that he would urge Russians to “stand up” to President Vladimir Putin. Despite being a prolific Twitter user, Musk has only mentioned Ukraine a handful of times, most recently in 2019 when he praised the “major role” Ukrainians played in the Soviet space program.

With Russia’s offensive in Ukraine ongoing and fighting reaching the outskirts of Kiev, Fedorov has called on the tech industry to get involved in the conflict. In a post to Facebook earlier on Saturday, he revealed that he had “asked YouTube to block the Russian propaganda media,” and asked Meta and Netflix to withhold their services from Russia. 

Fedorov also called on Apple CEO Tim Cook to block access to the App Store from Russia.

However, the Russian government has already restricted access to Facebook of its own accord after the company censored several Russian media outlets.

Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has resumed after Kiev rejected negotiations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday. The Russian advance had been halted since Friday as Russia waited for Ukraine to say whether it would talk, he added. Russia’s aim in Ukraine is to carry out “demilitarization and denazification” of the country, and to force Kiev to commit to neutrality and drop its goal of joining the NATO alliance.