Elon Musk sends Ukraine a broadside threatening to cut Starlink funds – Orange County Register
By Daryna Krasnolutska and Kateryna Choursina | Bloomberg
Elon Musk on Friday dramatically upped the ante on Ukraine by threatening to cut financial support for Starlink satellite access, which has played a crucial role in the fight against Russia, with the world’s richest man saying he cannot run the service continue funding and others should enter.
Musk warned his company SpaceX cannot indefinitely sustain the cost of high-speed broadband internet for Ukraine. It comes after sharp criticism from Kyiv for Musk’s public statements that the government should cede territories in exchange for peace with Russia.
Responding to a Ukrainian envoy’s recent comments that he should “walk away” from his proposals that included UN-monitored referendums in Russian-held eastern Ukraine, Musk tweeted on Friday: “We’re just following his recommendation.”
Starlink terminals have not only aided Ukrainian forces on the ground, but also supported infrastructure across the country, and any attempt to withdraw them could potentially hamper progress in counter-offensives against Russian troops. It would also risk a backlash from not only Ukraine but also its allies, which have been providing unconditional financial and military support for months.
There was no indication that Musk intended to withdraw Starlink from Ukraine immediately. SpaceX “is not asking to recoup previous spending on Starlink services in Ukraine,” he said in another post, but it can’t sustain financial aid or send thousands more terminals to Ukraine.
Starlink terminals in Ukraine use up to 100 times more data than typical households, Musk added. A week ago, he tweeted that Starlink in Ukraine cost SpaceX $80 million, which would likely surpass $100 million by the end of the year. Musk’s net worth is $209.2 billion, according to Bloomberg data.
Mykhailo Fedorov, Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, previously said that the country will get Starlink terminals for free, although he added that there may be another agreement between Musk and the US Agency for International Development and European bodies Starlinks for provided Ukraine.
CNN reported Thursday that SpaceX warned the Pentagon in September that it might stop partially funding Starlink in Ukraine unless the US military provides tens of millions of dollars a month in support. A White House spokesman declined to comment on the CNN report.
“The Department continues to work with industry to find solutions for Ukraine’s armed forces as they repel Russia’s brutal and unprovoked aggression,” Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale said in a statement, which did not address whether a letter was received . “We currently have nothing further to add.”
There was initially no comment from the Office of the President of Ukraine or the Ministry for Digitization.
Ukraine has 20,000 Starlink terminals provided equally by USAID, Poland, the European Union and private companies, according to a report by state news agency Ukrinform Oct. 5, citing data from the Ministry of Digitization.
Poland bought 11,700 Starlink terminals for Ukraine, including 5,000 acquired by state-controlled refinery PKN Orlen SA, according to Janusz Cieszynski, the government official in charge of cybersecurity.
“SpaceX has promised to cover the cost of servicing the terminals purchased from Orlen,” he said over the phone. The Polish government, meanwhile, will cover “the full service cost” of each terminal it purchases, “of about $50 a month” per device.
Musk angered Ukrainians – from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy onwards – with his recent suggestion that Ukraine should seek a negotiated solution to Russia’s invasion and cede Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, for good.
Musk also launched a Twitter poll urging citizens of the recently annexed occupied parts of eastern Ukraine and Crimea to choose whether they want to live in Russia or Ukraine, days after Ukraine, Europe and the US announced the annexation efforts of denounced by President Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine’s top diplomat in Germany at the time, Andriy Melnyk, did not mince words in his response to Musk’s proposal. In another tweet, Melnyk attacked Musk’s Tesla vehicles.
Musk responded to Melnyk’s comments on Friday.
Ian Bremmer, head of political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, wrote in a note to clients this week that Musk told him about a recent conversation with Putin.
Bremmer said the call came before Musk released his tweets urging Ukraine to find a negotiated solution to the war. Both Musk and the Kremlin subsequently denied that he spoke to Putin that year.
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/14/musk-sends-ukraine-a-broadside-with-threat-to-cut-starlink-funds/ Elon Musk sends Ukraine a broadside threatening to cut Starlink funds – Orange County Register