Elon Musk said Friday that his space company could not keep funding the Starlink satellite service that has kept Ukraine and its military online during the war, and he suggested he was pulling free internet after a Ukrainian ambassador insulted him on Twitter.
A Starlink cutoff would cripple the Ukrainian military’s main mode of communication and potentially hamstring its defenses by giving a major advantage to Russia, which has sought to jam signals and phone service in the eastern and southern combat zones.
The world’s richest man by Bloomberg estimates, Musk tweeted from the United States that his company, SpaceX, does not want reimbursement for its past expenses in helping Ukraine. But, he tweeted, it “also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely and send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households. This is unreasonable.”
He also taunted Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, who had some choice words for Musk last week after the Tesla chief executive tweeted a proposal to end the war in Ukraine that would favor Russia.
“F— off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk,” Melnyk said at the time.
“We’re just following his recommendation,” Musk tweeted early Friday. The ambassador declined to comment on Friday, while his press representative told The Washington Post his previous comment had been a specific response to Musk’s tweet about peace negotiations.
While SpaceX at points has portrayed Starlink service in Ukraine as an entirely charitable venture, it has not, in fact, but the entire cost. The Washington Post reported in April that the U.S. government had quietly paid millions to SpaceX for equipment and transportation costs.
Starlink, a unit of SpaceX, uses terminals equipped with antennas that are usually mounted on roofs to access the internet via satellite in rural or disconnected areas.
Ukrainian forces have used it to live-stream drone feeds, correct artillery fire and contact home since Musk began sending terminals earlier in the war as Ukraine faced the threat of internet outages from Russian strikes and cyberattacks. One Ukrainian commander said Friday that “fighting without Starlink service at the front line is like fighting without a gun.” [Continue reading…]
Elon Musk withdrawing help for Ukraine like an angry little baby is reminder No. 8482948 that we should not rely on plutocrats trying to launder their reputations to furnish valuable public goods.
— THE PERSUADERS by Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) October 14, 2022