A top adviser to Ukraine’s president accused Elon Musk of enabling Russian aggression, after the billionaire entrepreneur acknowledged denying satellite internet service in order to prevent a Ukrainian drone attack on a Russian naval fleet last year.
The Starlink satellite internet service, which is operated by Mr. Musk’s rocket company SpaceX, has been a digital lifeline in Ukraine since the early days of the war for both civilians and soldiers in areas where digital infrastructure has been wiped out.
On Thursday, CNN reported on an excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s upcoming biography “Elon Musk,” later published by The Washington Post, that said the billionaire had ordered the deactivation of Starlink satellite service near the coast of Crimea last September to thwart the Ukrainian attack. The excerpt said that Mr. Musk had conversations with a Russian official that led him to worry that an attack on Crimea could spiral into a nuclear conflict.
Later on Thursday, Mr. Musk responded on his social media platform to say that he hadn’t disabled the service but had rather refused to comply with an emergency request from Ukrainian officials to enable Starlink connections to Sevastopol on the occupied Crimean peninsula. That was in effect an acknowledgment that he had made the decision to prevent a Ukrainian attack.
“The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”
That drew an angry response from Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Mr. Musk’s “interference,” he said, had allowed Russia’s naval fleet to continue firing cruise missiles at Ukrainian cities.