Musk Rejects Kyiv's Request to Use Starlink in Attack on Russia
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has revealed that he refused a request from Kyiv to activate his Starlink satellite network in Crimea's port city of Sevastopol last year.
The request was made with the intention of aiding an attack on Russia's fleet. Musk expressed concerns about being complicit in a "major" act of war and escalating the conflict. The revelation came after a new biography of Musk cited his decision to turn off the Starlink network near the Crimean coast to disrupt a Ukrainian sneak attack.
In a post on his social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter), Musk explained that he had no choice but to reject Ukraine's emergency request to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol. He did not provide the date of the request, but he emphasised that agreeing to it would have made SpaceX explicitly complicit in a significant act of war. Musk's decision was driven by his conversations with senior Russian officials and his fears of a "mini-Pearl Harbor" scenario.
The strategic Crimea peninsula was seized by Russia in 2014 and since then, the country has based its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. The fleet has been used to impose a de facto blockade on Ukrainian ports since Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022. The conflict has seen the Russian fleet firing cruise missiles at Ukrainian civilian targets, while Ukraine has responded with attacks on Russian ships using maritime drones.
The biography, titled "Elon Musk" by Walter Isaacson, states that when Ukrainian explosive-laden submarine drones approached the Russian fleet last year, they lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly. Ukrainian officials pleaded with Musk to turn the satellites back on, but his fear of a nuclear response from Russia led him to maintain the network shutdown.
SpaceX has been providing Starlink internet service to Ukraine and its military since the beginning of the war in 2022. The service is delivered through private donations and a separate contract with a U.S. foreign aid agency. The Pentagon confirmed that SpaceX's Starlink has a Department of Defense contract to provide satellite services to Ukraine.
While Musk's decision has not been directly addressed by Ukrainian officials, Vadym Skybytskyi, an officer in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's Intelligence Directorate GUR, emphasised the need for an investigation into the matter. The Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment on Musk's decision but reiterated their commitment to working closely with commercial industry to ensure Ukraine has the necessary capabilities for self-defense.
Elon Musk refused a Ukrainian request to activate Starlink in Crimea's Sevastopol for an attack on Russia's fleet.
Musk feared being complicit in a major act of war and escalating the conflict.
Russia seized Crimea in 2014 and has based its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.