Musk says SpaceX will keep funding Ukraine Starlink internet

Published by the BBC, 15 October 2022

Elon Musk says his rocket firm SpaceX will continue funding its Starlink internet service in Ukraine, a day after he said it could no longer do so.

“The hell with it… Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free,” he tweeted.

Starlink has been vital for Ukraine’s military and people to stay online. 

Ukraine says it helped to reboot key infrastructure after Russian attacks.

Energy installations were among facilities targeted by more than 100 Russian missiles this week. Starlink consists of thousands of satellites in low-Earth orbit and ground terminals.

Last month Mr Musk, the Tesla boss and world’s richest man, asked the Pentagon to fund the Starlink programme instead of him, according to US media. 

And on Friday he tweeted: “SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely”. That move drew strong criticism.

Mr Musk earlier provoked Kyiv’s ire by suggesting Ukraine could cede territory to Russia. 

A Starlink terminal seen providing Kharkiv, Ukraine, with internet last month
A Starlink terminal seen providing Kharkiv, Ukraine, with internet last month

The Starlink programme costs $20m (£18m) per month to maintain, according to Mr Musk. He recently said SpaceX had spent $80m so far to keep Ukraine online.

“In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations,” he wrote on Twitter. 

“We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder.”

Ukraine’s vice-Prime Minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, downplayed tensions with Mr Musk, writing on Twitter that the billionaire “is among the world’s top private donors supporting Ukraine”.

“Starlink is an essential element of our critical infrastructure,” he wrote. 

Earlier this month, Mr Musk tweeted out a proposal that Ukraine accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea and allow referendums in Ukrainian regions invaded by Moscow. 

The Kremlin responded positively to the overture.

But Ukraine’s outgoing ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, posted a tweet telling Mr Musk to go away, using a swear word.

Responding on Friday to a post referring to the ambassador’s remark, Mr Musk said: “We’re just following his recommendation.”

Moscow recently declared four more Ukrainian regions to be part of Russia, following so-called referendums denounced as fraudulent by Kyiv and its Western allies. Russia does not fully control any of the four regions.

Mr Musk has also suggested the world should “formally” recognise Crimea – illegally annexed by Moscow in 2014 – as part of Russia.

This week, Mr Musk denied that he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin before releasing his Twitter poll. 

“I have spoken to Putin only once and that was about 18 months ago. The subject matter was space,” he tweeted.

That statement came after a think tank researcher claimed Mr Musk had personally told him about the alleged conversation. 

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