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Elon Musk hints he will withdraw vital Starlink service to Ukraine

Elon Musk says he’s ‘just following ambassador’s recommendation’ as he hints he will withdraw Ukraine’s crucial Starlink internet after diplomat told him to ‘f**k off’ when he suggested giving territory to Putin

  • Musk says firm SpaceX cannot continue funding Starlink terminals in Ukraine
  • World’s richest man said bearing the $20million monthly cost is ‘unreasonable’
  • Comes after he tweeted out ‘peace plan’ that prompted furious reaction from Kyiv, including ambassador who told him to ‘f*** off’ 
  • Musk joked he is ‘just following [the ambassador’s] recommendation’ when challenged over his Starlink claims on Twitter 

Elon Musk says he cannot afford to keep funding Starlink satellites that have proved vital for Ukraine in defending itself against Russia, raising fears he may cut support.

The world’s richest man, with a personal fortune north of $200billion, said it is costing firm SpaceX $20million per month to maintain the network that keeps roughly 20,000 Starlink terminals in Ukraine running – and cannot sustain it.

He spoke out just days after tweeting a ‘peace plan’ that proposed handing chunks of Ukrainian territory to Russia that prompted a clash with President Zelensky and saw ambassador Andreij Melnyk tell him to ‘f**k off’.

Musk said Friday he is ‘just following [the ambassador’s] recommendation’ when challenged over his plan to stop paying for the network on Twitter.

Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of SpaceX, says the firm cannot continue paying for Starlink terminals to Ukraine that have proved vital in the war against Russia

Musk threatened to withdraw Starlink after tweeted a ‘peace plan’ that prompted an ambassador to tell him to ‘f*** off’ – and joked he was simply ‘following [the] recommendation’

The SpaceX owner is the world’s richest man, with a personal fortune north of $200billion

Starlink terminals have allowed Ukrainian commanders and units to communicate on the battlefield when their usual networks have been taken down by Russia.

They have also proved vital in helping to pilot drones, which assist with reconnaissance, attacks on enemy tanks, and directing artillery fire.

Interviewed in the early months of the war, one Ukrainian soldier said Starlink was the single most important piece of kit he had used.

Musk tweeted: ‘SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households. This is unreasonable.

‘In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations & pay telcos for access to Internet via gateways. 

‘We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder. Burn is approaching ~$20M/month.’ 

He spoke out after CNN reported that SpaceX had sent a letter to the Pentagon, asking the US Department of Defence to start picking up the tab for Starlink in Ukraine – estimating the annual cost to be $400million.

The letter was reportedly sent just days before Musk tweeted out his ‘peace plan’. 

CNN also revealed that Valerii Zaluzhniy – the general in charge of Ukraine’s forces – had sent a letter directly to Musk back in July asking for 6,000 more Starlink terminals plus 500 per month to make up for units that are being destroyed.

Most Starlink terminals currently in use in Ukraine were not paid for by SpaceX, but were bought by the US, Poland, UK and others.

Drones used in the field are able to use the newly available Starlink to keep connected and provide intelligence as internet and power outages plague Ukraine 

However, the technology company is responsible for running the underlying data network and shouldering the associated costs. 

Musk activated Starlink in Ukraine in late February after internet services were disrupted because of Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine’s vice prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, said this week Starlink services helped restore energy and communications infrastructure in critical areas after more than 100 Russian cruise missile attacks.

Russia calls its intervention in Ukraine a ‘special military operation’ and says it does not target civilians.

Musk drew widespread criticism from Ukrainians over his peace plan in which he proposed that Ukraine permanently cede the Crimea region to Russia, that new referendums be held under U.N. auspices to determine the fate of Russian-controlled territory, and that Ukraine agree to neutrality.

Ukraine says it will never agree to cede land taken by force, and lawful referendums cannot be held in occupied territory where many people have been killed or driven out.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was among those who criticised Musk’s proposal.

Ukraine’s outgoing ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, also condemned the proposal in blunt terms, saying on Twitter: ‘Fuck off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk.’

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