Elon Musk told Pentagon officials during a call about the satellite-based internet that SpaceX supplies to Ukraine’s military that he’d spoken personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the New Yorker reported.
(Bloomberg) — Elon Musk told Pentagon officials during a call about the satellite-based internet that SpaceX supplies to Ukraine’s military that he’d spoken personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the New Yorker reported.
Musk volunteered the information during an October conversation with Colin Kahl, then the Pentagon’s top policy official, about Ukrainian forces losing connection to Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Starlink service as they entered territory contested by Russia, the magazine said Monday.
“My inference was that he was getting nervous that Starlink’s involvement was increasingly seen in Russia as enabling the Ukrainian war effort, and was looking for a way to placate Russian concerns,” Kahl told the New Yorker.
Musk didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment. Kahl, who returned to a position at Stanford University last month, also didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“We’re aware of the coverage and interest in this and the department does contract with Starlink for services of this type,” Defense Department spokesman Jeff Jurgensen said in an email. “As we have also stated, due to the critical nature of these systems – we have not released additional details regarding specific capabilities, contracts or partners – at this time.”
In October, Musk, SpaceX’s chief executive officer, denied that he had spoken to Putin. In a post on Twitter, the social media platform he’s since renamed X, the billionaire wrote that he’d spoken to the Russian president only once, roughly 18 months earlier, about space.
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The magazine report revives the controversy that erupted after Musk posted what he described as peace plans that the Kremlin praised and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy criticized. Soon thereafter, Ukrainian troops reported Starlink outages and Musk threatened to stop funding Ukraine’s access to the service.
SpaceX briefly requested that the US and its allies foot more of the bill for Starlink in Ukraine, only for Musk to reverse his position and pledge to continue funding the initiative. In June, the Defense Department announced a contract with the closely held company.
Read More: Musk’s Empire Becomes a Problem for Washington
–With assistance from Peter Martin.
(Updates with Pentagon response in fifth paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected which call was referenced in the first paragraph.)
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