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14 Oct, 2022 12:00

Musk explains withdrawal of free Starlink service for Ukraine

The SpaceX CEO followed the recommendation to “f**k off” that came from a notorious Ukrainian diplomat
Musk explains withdrawal of free Starlink service for Ukraine

Elon Musk has cited an instruction to “f**k off,” delivered by outgoing Ukrainian ambassador to Germany Andrey Melnik, as being partially responsible for his u-turn on providing free Starlink satellite services to Kiev.

The CEO of SpaceX confirmed the connection on Friday. He responded to a correspondent from the Kyiv Post, who shared news about the company’s demand that the Pentagon foot Ukraine’s growing bill and noted how Melnik insulted Musk recently.

“We’re just following his recommendation,” Musk tweeted, adding a ‘man shrugging’ emoji.

Melnik lashed out at Musk on Twitter last week, after the US billionaire floated a Ukraine-Russia peace plan that involved Ukraine ceding some territory and adopting a neutral status. Many Ukrainian officials rejected the proposal with anger. Melnik said his message to Musk was a “very diplomatic reply.”

Days later, Ukrainian troops reportedly started having issues with access to the Starlink system, with the Financial Times describing “panicked calls from soldiers to helplines.” Musk claimed that his company had provided a free service to Ukraine to the tune of $80 million.

On Thursday, CNN published a letter, which it said SpaceX had sent to the Pentagon in September, demanding that it cover the cost of operating the system in Ukraine. The company is no longer “in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” the document was quoted as saying.

Supporters of Ukraine credit Musk’s satellite-based internet system with providing communications for the Ukrainian government. The man himself claimed that Russia had tried and failed to disable Starlink terminals in Ukraine on multiple occasions, which Moscow denied.

Melnik, the top Ukrainian diplomat at the center of the controversy, has a long record of insulting various public figures, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. During his tenure in Berlin, he called the German leader an “offended liverwurst” after Scholz took issue with Kiev’s refusal to host a proposed visit by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Friday marks the last day of Melnik’s posting at the embassy in Berlin. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky relieved Melnik of his position in July, but it took months for his replacement to be appointed. The diplomat was recalled after an interview, in which he denied ethnic cleansing of Poles and Jews by Ukrainian nationalists during World War II.

Among the latest targets of Melnik’s tirades were German politicians, who questioned why the diplomat’s 20-year-old son was studying in Berlin instead of going to the frontline with Russia.