Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite systems are being used by Ukrainian forces on all front lines in the war with Russia, the country’s spy chief has said.
“They have proven themselves on the front lines. You can say what you want about whether [Starlink systems] are good or bad, but facts are facts. Absolutely all front lines are using them,” Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Main Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate, said Saturday, according to Interfax Ukraine.
Budanov was speaking at the annual Yalta European Strategy meeting organized by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation.
The spy chief also gave a positive account of the difference Starlink is making in the war.
“They have played and continue to play a significant role, because so many systems use the antennas, use the Starlink systems themselves, for communications, for drone transmissions, especially in terms of a remote command post and so on.”
Budanov also said Starlink coverage “did not work for some time” in Russian-occupied Crimea, without elaborating.
“I can absolutely confirm that Starlink systems did not work for a certain period of time near Crimea. We immediately realized that there was simply no coverage there. That’s probably all I can tell you,” Budanov said.
The spy chief’s speech follows revelations about the satellite system’s use in the war made in a new biography of Starlink’s owner, written by Walter Isaacson and titled simply “Elon Musk.”
According to an excerpt from the book, Musk secretly ordered his engineers to turn off his company’s Starlink satellite communications network near the Crimean coast last year to disrupt a Ukrainian sneak attack on the Russian naval fleet.
As Ukrainian submarine drones strapped with explosives approached the Russian fleet, they “lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly,” Isaacson writes.
Musk’s decision, which left Ukrainian officials begging him to turn the satellites back on, was driven by an acute fear that Russia would respond to a Ukrainian attack on Crimea with nuclear weapons, a fear driven home by Musk’s conversations with senior Russian officials, according to Isaacson.
Musk did not respond to CNN’s request for comment before publication. But he did respond to the Isaacson book excerpt late Thursday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter that he owns, by asserting that the Starlink service provided by his company SpaceX was never active over Crimea and that the Ukrainian government made an “emergency request” to him to turn on service.
“There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol,” Musk posted on X. Sevastopol is a port city in Crimea.
“The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor. If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”