Elon Musk has been accused of thwarting a Ukrainian drone strike on a Russian ship off Crimea after ‘refusing them access to the Starlink satellite network.’
Kyiv had recently planned to remote-pilot a drone to deliver an explosive strike on a Russian navy ship at a Black Sea base in occupied Crimea.
But the SpaceX CEO, 52, denied the Ukrainian military the use of his Starlink network – whose services he offered to Kyiv earlier in the war, forcing army chiefs to stand down the attack, according to a report by the New York Times.
In the wake of the failed strike, Ukraine army chief Valery Zaluzhnyi reportedly sought contact with U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, alleging that Musk’s ability to dictate his military’s capabilities to attack key Russian targets.
Zaluzhnyi said it was ‘concerning’ that Musk had scuppered several planned attacks.
But the billionaire, whose offered his network of satellites to support Ukraine’s wartime communications in the months following Russia’s February 2022 invasion, has maintained from the outset that his technology is meant ‘for peaceful use only’.
The latest controversy comes after Gwynne Shotwell, the President of SpaceX, in February formally announced the company was limiting Ukraine’s use of Starlink for military purposes.
Shotwell stated the service could be used for typical communications and humanitarian efforts, such as connecting families and hospitals.
The service had enabled Ukrainians to benefit from uninterrupted, independent, and secure internet access amid Russia’s consolidated missile attacks caused significant damage to Ukraine’s communications infrastructure.
In many cases, Starlink satellites became the only means of communication for the Ukrainian armed forces on the frontlines.
Starlink’s terms of service document clearly states: ‘Starlink is not designed or intended for use with or in offensive or defensive weaponry or other comparable end-uses.’
But Ukraine’s military had harnessed the technology to pilot drones carrying anti-tank grenades, destroying Russian tanks and army trucks.
In recent months, Kyiv has pioneered the use of naval ‘kamikaze’ drones – unmanned vessels laden with explosives that are driven towards Russian warships and detonated upon impact.
It has also used seafaring drones to destroy or damage infrastructure controlled by Moscow, most notably a stretch of the Kerch bridge that connects occupied Crimea to mainland Russia, according to Mail Online.