Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite service is a “vital tool” for Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, following reports the billionaire turned off the system near the Crimean coast last year to prevent a Ukrainian drone attack on Russian warships.
(Bloomberg) — Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite service is a “vital tool” for Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, following reports the billionaire turned off the system near the Crimean coast last year to prevent a Ukrainian drone attack on Russian warships.
The high-speed broadband system has become an essential communications tool as Ukraine combats Russia’s invasion. Musk began rolling out the system at Ukraine’s request in February 2022 as Russian forces advanced, knocking out Ukrainian communications systems.
“What we would hope and expect is that the technology will remain fully available to the Ukrainians,” Blinken said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
Blinken declined to comment on a report, confirmed by Musk, that the SpaceX founder refused a Ukrainian request to activate the system in the Moscow-annexed Crimean port of Sevastopol last year to help an attack on Russian military vessels.
Asked whether Musk should face consequences, Blinken said, “I can’t speak to a specific episode.”
“Here’s what I can tell you: Starlink has been a vital tool for the Ukrainians to be able to communicate with each other, and particularly for the military to communicate in their effort to defend all of Ukraine’s territory,” he said.
SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read more: Musk’s SpaceX Wins Pentagon Deal for Its Starlink in Ukraine
Musk said last week on X, the social media platform he owns, that he had to reject an emergency request from Ukraine to activate Starlink in Sevastopol.
“The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor,” Musk wrote after the episode became public in excerpts from a new biography. “If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”
Read more: Zelenskiy Invites Musk to Ukraine to See Russia’s Devastation
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak criticized the decision, saying Musk’s refusal to activate the system led to Ukrainian civilian deaths, including children.
Musk later threatened to shut off Starlink entirely and set off an uproar by proposing a “peace” plan.
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.
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