According to Ukrainian intelligence, Russia has been using Starlink after intercepting the radio communications of its 83rd Assault Brigade. This information was confirmed through an audio clip posted by the brigade, which showed an exchange between two soldiers. The use of Starlink terminals produced by Elon Musk’s SpaceX is taking on a “systemic nature,” according to Andrii Yusov, a Ministry of Defense representative in Ukraine.
Starlink terminals have been hailed as an important tool facilitating Kyiv’s battlefield communications since they were sent to Ukraine shortly after Russia began its invasion. However, Ukraine’s GUR did not specify how many terminals it believed Russia had or how they might have been obtained. Starlink said in a statement on Thursday that it does not do business with Russia’s government or military, and that it is not active in Russia and has not sold or shipped equipment to the country. However, it did not mention the possible use of Starlink in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.
According to Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Russian troops may be obscuring their use of Starlink by sending a fake GPS signal. This could make it difficult for SpaceX to detect if their equipment is being used by sanctioned or unauthorized parties. While SpaceX initially gave its full support to Ukraine when Russia first invaded and sent “thousands” of Starlink terminals to the country, relations have cooled due to disagreements over activating Starlink near Moscow-annexed Crimea. In 2022, Musk denied Kyiv’s request because he feared that doing so would have made SpaceX explicitly complicit in a major act of war.