Will Ukrainians soon be deprived of Elon Musk’s Starlink internet system?

Last July, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, General Valeri Zalouzhny, praised the “exceptional usefulness” of Starlink units, which notably enable combat forces to communicate by phone, guide drones in the best possible way and operate many devices. . While the country’s cell phone and internet networks were destroyed by the Russian army, the service of the company SpaceX, which provides a satellite internet network, appears to be vital for the continuity of the Ukrainian resistance. To make up for regular terminal losses, General Zaloujny has requested the delivery of 6,200 additional pieces of equipment this summer for his army and intelligence services. A request to which the head of SpaceX, the multibillionaire Elon Musk, seems to no longer be able to respond favorably.

This Friday, the American channel CNN revealed that SpaceX’s senior director of government sales had sent a letter to the Pentagon in September, in which he expressed the company’s inability to finance the Starlink service in Ukraine. The reason: the cost of operations. According to the letter seen by CNN, SpaceX estimates that a Starlink kit — which includes a plate — costs $2,500 each. However, according to Musk, there are around 25,000 satellite dishes in Ukraine.

If we add the regular destruction of equipment, the total cost would reach 120 million dollars by the end of the year and about 400 million dollars in the next twelve months. Thus, a consultant working for SpaceX told CNN that “sending several thousand additional terminals – as requested by General Zaloujny – whose data consumption is up to 100 times that of typical homes will be impossible.” So that Ukrainians are not deprived of the network, SpaceX is asking the American government to pay the next bills.

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SpaceX is not alone in paying for the Starlink service

This sudden revelation of a possible end to Elon Musk’s aid to Ukraine raises questions. Especially as the American businessman seems less and less determined to support Kyiv in the conflict between her and Russia, as a recent tweet tends to prove in which he proposes the following peace plan: “Redo the elections of the annexed regions under UN supervision. Russia leaves if that is the will of the people. – Crimea is officially part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s mistake). – Crimea’s water supply is assured. – Ukraine remains neutral.”

This diplomatic solution by the billionaire greatly displeased the Ukrainian authorities. To such an extent that the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany replied “fuck you”, and that President Volodymyr Zelensky, more diplomatic, asked him to specify which camp he was in. In the second, Musk responded “still very much on the side of Ukraine”, without hiding that he feared “a massive escalation”. And that only his plan would be able to avoid it.

This ambiguous position also bothers the Pentagon, which, in the voice of one of its top officials, denounced Musk’s “chutzpah”. This one who pretends to be “a hero”, while SpaceX is far from the only entity funding the Starlink network. Indeed, the figures communicated by the company to the Pentagon show that around 85% of the terminals present in Ukraine were, at least partially, paid for by third countries such as the United States and Poland, as well as around 30% of Internet connectivity .

“Without Starlink, Ukrainians would have to act blindly in many situations,” computer security expert Dimitri Alperovitch told CNN. As for Commander Roman Kovalenko, he estimates that “work efficiency without Starlink would decrease by 60% or more”. The Ukrainian concern is therefore legitimate, even though Elon Musk tweeted on Thursday that he was “happy to support Ukraine”, in response to a country minister who insisted on the importance of the internet network. On Friday, a senior adviser to the Ukrainian president issued a conciliatory note, saying he was confident an agreement would be reached to maintain the service.


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