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15 Oct, 2022 21:57

Musk makes U-turn on Starlink for Ukraine

The US billionaire says his company will continue to fund the satellite service in the country
Musk makes U-turn on Starlink for Ukraine

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has made an abrupt U-turn on his decision to stop funding Ukraine's use of the Starlink satellite communication service, where it has been actively used by Kiev's troops.

Earlier, SpaceX reportedly asked the Pentagon to cover the cost of the internet service for Ukraine, which could amount to $400 million over the next year.

We’ll just keep funding Ukraine government for free,” Musk tweeted on Saturday, “even though Starlink is still losing money and other companies are getting billions of taxpayer dollars.”

Earlier, he noted that his “competitors in space launch and communications,” Lockheed Martin and Boeing, together received over $60 billion in defense contracts in 2021 alone. The entrepreneur also complained in a series of tweets that keeping up “warfront” communications is difficult and expensive – adding that Russia is “actively trying to kill Starlink,” forcing the company to spend $20 million per month to safeguard the services from cyberattacks and jamming.

On Thursday, CNN obtained a letter in which Musk supposedly informed the Pentagon that his company is “not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time.”

SpaceX has donated around 20,000 Starlink satellite units to Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict with Russia in late February, providing internet access in chaotic battleground areas that would otherwise be cut off.

Kiev has hailed the satellites as an “essential part of critical infrastructure,” while urging SpaceX to send thousands more. Musk previously stated that SpaceX will end up spending more than $100 million providing Starlink services to Ukraine by the end of the year. However, the company reportedly acknowledged that most of the units it sent to Ukraine were partially or fully funded by the American, British, and Polish governments.

SpaceX also recently came under fire over alleged Starlink outages across some regions of Ukraine, described by some troops as a “catastrophic” loss of communications, according to the Financial Times.

This took place following a spat between Musk and Kiev’s former ambassador to Germany, Andrey Melnik. The diplomat, who became well known for insulting German officials, told Musk to “f**k off” after the billionaire put forward a peace plan for Ukraine that involved Kiev committing to neutrality and dropping its claim on Crimea. Musk then said he was simply following Melnik’s advice when he decided to withdraw Starlink funding for Ukraine.