Elon Musk’s deployment of thousands of “Starlink” satellite internet terminals to Ukraine has been a major boon for soldiers resisting the brutal Russian invasion – with one top US general stating that the service has helped Ukrainians stay connected to the West.
Ukrainian soldiers have reportedly used the SpaceX-operated internet system to coordinate military action as well as to stay in touch with their families – despite Russia’s efforts to sever communications.
Starlink has also helped Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to communicate directly with his countrymen despite heavy Russian bombardments targeting infrastructure.
“The strategic impact is, it totally destroyed [Vladimir] Putin’s information campaign,” Brig. Gen. Steve Butow, director of the space portfolio at the Defense Innovation Unit, told Politico. “He never, to this day, has been able to silence Zelenskyy.”
Musk has touted Starlink, which has more than 400,000 global subscribers, as a source of high-speed, low-cost broadband internet in areas that previously lacked reliable service.
But the billionaire began shipping Starlink terminals to Ukraine in late February at the request of Ukrainian government officials who feared Russia would cut off traditional internet access.
“We’ve got more than 11,000 Starlink stations and they help us in our everyday fight on all the fronts,” Ukraine’s vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov told Politico. “We’re ready, even if there is no light, no fixed internet, through generators using Starlink, to renew any connection in Ukraine.”
The report provided the latest account of Starlink’s impact on the ground in Ukraine, more than 100 days after the Russian invasion began.
In April, a Ukrainian solider identified as “Dima” told journalist David Patrikarakos that the service was playing a key role in the resistance.
“I want to say one thing: @elonmusk’s Starlink is what changed the war in #Ukraine’s favor. #Russia went out of its way to blow up all our comms. Now they can’t. Starlink works under Katyusha fire, under artillery fire,” the soldier said, according to Patrikarakos’ Twitter thread detailing their interview.
And in March, the Times of London reported that Starlink was helping the Ukrainian military use drones to target and destroy Russian tanks.
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, has been openly critical of Musk’s decision to provide internet access – griping that the billionaire had “chosen a side” even though SpaceX was a civilian firm.
Musk fired back in response to Rogozin’s remarks.
“Ukraine civilian Internet was experiencing strange outages – bad weather perhaps? – so SpaceX is helping fix it,” Musk tweeted on March 3.