Elon Musk Withheld Starlink Over Crimea

Elon Musk, the multi-billionaire owner of Tesla, Space X Neuralink and what used to the Twitter social media platform, has turned his powers to geopolitics, claiming that he refused to give Ukraine access to his Starlink communications network over Crimea in order to avoid engagement with a "major act of war".

Ukraine officials have responded by harshly criticising Elon Musk for his decision as Ukraine sought to conduct a strike on Russia in the Crimea peninsula in 2022.

Satellite Internet service Starlink, operated by the Musk-controlled  company SpaceX, has been deployed in Ukraine since shortly after it was invaded by Russia in February 2022. Kyiv had sent an emergency request to activate Starlink to Sevastopol, home to a major Russian navy port, he said.

Musks comments were made in response to revelations that he ordered the deactivation of Starlink services over Crimea to prevent a drone attack on Russian ships.

A senior Ukrainian official says this enabled Russian attacks and accused Musk of "committing evil" and that Russian naval vessels had since taken part in deadly attacks on civilians. "By not allowing Ukrainian drones to destroy part of the Russian military fleet via Starlink interference, Elon Musk allowed this fleet to fire Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities," he has said. "Why do some people so desperately want to defend war criminals and their desire to commit murder? And do they now realise that they are committing evil and encouraging evil?" he added.

The dispute follows the release of a biography by Walter Isaacson, which alleges that Musk ordered that Ukraine's access to Starlink be interrupted because he feared that an ambush of Russia's naval fleet in Crimea could provoke a nuclear response from the Kremlin.

Ukraine targeted Russian ships in Sevastopol with submarine drones carrying high explosives, but they lost connection to Starlink and "washed ashore harmlessly", according to Isaacson.

Starlink terminals connect to SpaceX satellites in orbit and have been crucial for maintaining internet connectivity and communication in Ukraine as the conflict has disrupted the country infrastructure. SpaceX, in which Musk is the majority shareholder, began supplying thousands of Starlink satellite dishes to Ukraine shortly after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year. 

Responding to the book's claim, Mr Musk said on X that SpaceX "did not deactivate anything" because it had not been activated in those regions in the first place. "There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol. The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor," he said.

"If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation."

Reuters:    The Hill:     @Podolyak_M:     BBC:     TBSNews:     Times of Israel:    NYTimes:   

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