According to Ukrainian intelligence, Russia is using Starlink after intercepting the radio communications of its 83rd Assault Brigade, which is operating near the towns of Klishchiivka and Andriivka in the Donetsk region. Ukraine’s GUR has confirmed that Russia’s use of Starlink terminals produced by Elon Musk’s SpaceX is becoming a systemic issue. This comes after media reports this week that said Ukrainian troops had detected Russia’s use of the terminals several months ago.
Starlink terminals connect to SpaceX’s satellites in low Earth orbit to provide internet services, and have been hailed as an important tool facilitating Kyiv’s battlefield communications. However, it is not clear how many terminals Russia has or how they might have been obtained. Starlink denied doing business with Russia’s government or military and claimed that it does not operate in Russia. However, it did not mention the possible use of Starlink in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.
SpaceX initially supported Ukraine when Russia invaded and sent thousands of Starlink terminals to the country. However, relations between Musk and Ukraine have since cooled due to disagreements over SpaceX’s involvement in military operations. In 2022, Musk denied Kyiv’s request to activate Starlink near Moscow-annexed Crimea due to concerns about potential complications from major acts of war.
Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Defense One that Russian troops may be obscuring their use of Starlink by sending fake GPS signals. Despite these efforts, SpaceX claims that if it obtains knowledge that a Starlink terminal is being used by a sanctioned or unauthorized party, it investigates the claim and takes actions to deactivate the terminal if confirmed.