The president of Ukraine has responded to SpaceX’s decision to pull back Starlink coverage to parts of the military—telling the company to choose a side in the war.
- Speaking at an event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told reporters that her company has begun taking actions to prevent the Ukrainian military from using Starlink connectivity in an offensive capacity.
- Shotwell says the company was eager to provide Starlink coverage but cannot allow the Ukrainian government to weaponize the service. She says the intent was never to have the service used for offensive purposes.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s advisor Mykhailo Podolyak responded Thursday, calling out the company and saying it needs to choose a side in the war.
- Podolyak says companies have to decide if they are “on the side of freedom” or are “on Russia’s side and its right to kill.”
Why It’s Important
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is approaching its one-year anniversary on February 24. The country faces a renewed series of drone attacks and advances against Eastern Ukrainian cities like Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia.
The country is momentarily facing these incursions with reduced military capacity, as SpaceX is currently limiting the use of its services for drone strikes and other unnamed capacities.
Backing Up A Bit
As we previously reported, Starlink is a growing internet service provided by thousands of satellites in low orbit. The service has already been used on several occasions to provide disaster relief, such as this past fall in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Florida.
SpaceX initially came to the assistance of Ukraine by providing Starlink terminals within weeks of the fighting’s start, helping to provide assistance and relief. The Times of London reports that the connectivity began seeing military usage in March 2022. Attempts by Russia to jam connectivity were met by Starlink reinforcing its software.
Musk received criticism in October 2022 for noting that the coverage cost SpaceX $20 million per month and that he didn’t intend to provide it forever. Musk went as far as to advocate a peace deal, permanently handing territory to Russia. Kyiv refuses to hand over territory.
“SpaceX Starlink has become the connectivity backbone of Ukraine all the way up to the front lines. This is the damned if you do part. However, we are not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes. This is the damned if you don’t part,” tweeted Elon Musk.