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7 Mar, 2024 15:30

Musk-owned company probed over claims Russia using its satellites – WaPo

Ukraine insists Moscow’s troops have accessed and deployed the Starlink service on the front line
Musk-owned company probed over claims Russia using its satellites – WaPo

US lawmakers have launched an investigation into Elon Musk’s SpaceX, after alleged Ukrainian claims that Russian troops used the company’s Starlink satellite service on the conflict frontline, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

According to the newspaper, US Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) and Robert Garcia (D-California) sent a letter on Wednesday demanding that SpaceX report complaints about the potential illegal use of Starlink terminals.

The Democratic lawmakers reportedly voiced alarm over Ukrainian allegations that Russian forces had deployed Starlink terminals, potentially breaching US sanctions laws.

The lawmakers are said to have warned SpaceX’s president, Gwynne Shotwell, that Russia’s alleged use of Starlink “poses a serious threat to Ukraine’s security, Ukrainian lives, and US national security.” 

“We are concerned that you may not have appropriate guardrails and policies in place,” Raskin and Garcia wrote in a letter seen by the Post.

They also announced plans to contact the Pentagon and other agencies, stating that “it remains critical that Russia be deprived of any trade that empowers its military.” 

Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) previously claimed that Russian troops are increasingly using Starlink services on the battlefield, citing conversations allegedly intercepted between Russian military personnel.

SpaceX CEO Musk has denied the allegations, insisting that “no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia.” The Kremlin has also insisted that the Russian military has never ordered Starlink terminals, noting that the system has not been certified in the country.

Musk donated around 20,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine shortly after Russia launched its military operation in February 2022. Kiev’s troops use the system to operate drones along the front line.

The billionaire, however, said last year that he had refused a Ukrainian request to activate the Starlink service in Crimea. In the absence of any direct orders from the US leadership, SpaceX opted not to contravene regulations despite Kiev’s request to do so, the entrepreneur explained at the time. While pledging support for Ukraine, Musk has repeatedly said he favors a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The US Defense Department purchased up to 500 new Starlink terminals for Ukraine in June 2023, the House Democrats’ letter says, according to the Post.