Russian forces are using Elon Musk's Starlink in occupied areas, Ukraine army intelligence says

Russian forces are using Elon Musk's Starlink in occupied areas, Ukraine army intelligence says
SpaceX Starlink 5 satellite seen in the night passing in the sky above Svendborg on South Funen, Denmark, on April 21, 2020.MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/Getty Images
  • Ukrainian military intelligence claims Russia is using Starlink terminals in occupied Ukraine.
  • It said it confirmed the Starlink use by intercepting radio communications of a Russian unit in Donetsk.

Russia is using Starlink terminals in occupied parts of Ukraine, Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR) has claimed.

Ukrainian intelligence confirmed that Russia is using Starlink after intercepting the radio communications of Russia’s 83rd Assault Brigade, which is operating near the towns of Klishchiivka and Andriivka in the Donetsk region.

It posted an audio clip which it said showed the exchange between two soldiers.

Andrii Yusov, a Ministry of Defense of Ukraine representative, told local media that Russia’s use of Starlink terminals produced by Elon Musk's SpaceX was taking on a “systemic nature.”

Starlink terminals, which connect to the company’s satellites in low Earth orbit to provide internet services, were sent to Ukraine shortly after Russia began its invasion. They have been hailed as an important tool facilitating Kyiv’s battlefield communications.


Ukraine's confirmation comes following media reports this week that said Ukrainian troops had detected Russia’s use of the terminals several months ago.

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.

The statement said that Starlink 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.

"If SpaceX obtains knowledge that a Starlink terminal is being used by a sanctioned or unauthorized party, we investigate the claim and take actions to deactivate the terminal if confirmed," it said.


However, Russian troops may be obscuring their use of Starlink to SpaceX by sending a fake GPS signal, Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told the outlet Defense One.

Russian forces are using Elon Musk's Starlink in occupied areas, Ukraine army intelligence says
A Starlink antenna covered with a camouflage net used by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Donetsk region, December 2022.NurPhoto / Getty

Musk initially gave his full support to Ukraine when Russia first invaded, with SpaceX sending "thousands" of Starlink terminals to the country, but relations have since cooled.

He revealed that in 2022, he denied Kyiv’s request to activate Starlink near Moscow-annexed Crimea, where Ukraine was planning a drone strike against the Russia's navy, because to do so would have made SpaceX “explicitly complicit in a major act of war.”