Ukrainian intelligence has confirmed that Russian forces are using Starlink, a satellite-based internet service provided by SpaceX, to communicate with each other in the Donetsk region. According to a report from Ukraine’s General Security Service (GUR), intercepted radio communications from Russia’s 83rd Assault Brigade revealed that the group is using Starlink terminals to facilitate their operations.
Starlink terminals were sent to Ukraine shortly after Russia began its invasion and have been hailed as an important tool for Kyiv’s battlefield communications. However, the GUR did not specify how many terminals they believed Russia had or how they might have obtained them.
SpaceX, which provides Starlink services through its satellites in low Earth orbit, denied any business dealings with Russia’s government or military. The company stated that it does not operate in Russia and has not shipped any equipment to the country. However, it did not address the possibility of Starlink being used in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.
According to defense expert Bryan Clark of the Hudson Institute, Russian troops may be hiding their use of Starlink from SpaceX by sending a fake GPS signal. Musk initially supported Ukraine when Russia invaded and provided “thousands” of Starlink terminals to help facilitate communication on the battlefield. However, relations between Musk and Ukraine have cooled since then, particularly after Musk denied Kyiv’s request to activate Starlink near Moscow-annexed Crimea in 2022 due to concerns about making SpaceX explicitly complicit in a major act of war.