Elon Musk Denies ‘False’ Reports Starlink Sold to Russia


Reports that SpaceX sold Starlink terminals to Moscow are “categorically false,” founder Elon Musk has said, as questions swirl about the use of the company’s technology on both sides of the front lines in Ukraine.

“A number of false news reports claim that SpaceX is selling Starlink terminals to Russia,” Musk said in a statement posted to X on Sunday. “This is categorically false.”

“To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia,” Musk said.

California-based SpaceX owns and operates Starlink, the world’s largest network of satellites that sit in a low-Earth orbit to provide internet access to its users.

Ukraine has used Starlink extensively to conduct reconnaissance missions, collect intelligence and carry out drone strikes in the nearly two years of full-scale war with Russia. “It’s a key capability for Ukraine,” military and weapons expert, David Hambling, told Newsweek on Sunday.

Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX Elon Musk, on June 16, 2023 in Paris, France. “A number of false news reports claim that SpaceX is selling Starlink terminals to Russia,” Musk said on Sunday. “This is…

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Reports published last week had said that Russian soldiers operating in Ukraine were using Starlink for operations against Kyiv. SpaceX said it did not operate in Russia or work with Russian authorities.

But this raises questions about the use of Starlink terminals in Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine, and how Moscow’s troops would have acquired Starlink terminals. Newsweek has reached out to SpaceX for comment via email on Monday.

On Sunday, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said it had evidence that Russia was using Starlink to access the internet in Moscow-held areas of the country.

“There have been recorded cases of the use of these devices by the Russian occupiers,” Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Kyiv’s GUR, told Ukrainian outlet RBC in an article published on Saturday. “This is starting to take on a systemic nature,” Yusov told the outlet.

Troops with Moscow’s 83rd Assault Brigade are using Starlink to access the internet in hotspots in the eastern Donetsk region, including near the village of Klishchiivka and the town of Andriivka, the GUR said in a separate statement. Russia controls part of the Donetsk region.

SpaceX has repeatedly said it does “not do business of any kind with the Russian government or its military.”

“Starlink is not active in Russia, meaning service will not work in that country,” the company said in a statement. “SpaceX has never sold or marketed Starlink in Russia, nor has it shipped equipment to locations in Russia. If Russian stores are claiming to sell Starlink for service in that country, they are scamming their customers.”

“If SpaceX obtains knowledge that a Starlink terminal is being used by a sanctioned or unauthorized party, we investigate the claim and take actions to deactivate the terminal if confirmed,” the company added.

Images circulating on social media “appear to support GUR claims that Russia is using Starlink terminals inside occupied Ukraine,” said Hambling.

Russia’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a Newsweek request for comment.

SpaceX has also referenced reports that Starlink internet terminals had ended up in Russian hands via intermediaries in the Middle East, saying Starlink “does not operate in Dubai.”

“Starlink cannot be purchased in Dubai nor does SpaceX ship there,” the company repeated on Sunday. “Additionally, Starlink has not authorized any third-party intermediaries, resellers or distributors of any kind to sell Starlink in Dubai.”

Earlier this month, Defense One reported that Russia was using a number of Starlink terminals across the frontlines, citing an unnamed Ukrainian source. “When they have hundreds, it’ll be hard for us to live,” the source told the publication.

Two Ukrainian government sources told Reuters that Kyiv had detected Russian Starlink use in Kremlin-controlled territory.