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Boost for Putin as Elon Musk's 'Starlink refusal' deals blow to Ukraine counter-offensive

NewsBoost for Putin as Elon Musk's 'Starlink refusal' deals blow to Ukraine counter-offensive

Elon Musk has reportedly dealt a blow to Ukraine’s counter-offensive – and boosted Vladimir Putin and his Russian invaders.

Ukrainian armed forces had to scrap a planned naval drone strike in the Black Sea after the SpaceX CEO refused them access to the Starlink satellite network, claims a US report. Satellite terminals donated by Musk have become vital to Ukraine’s military communications.

The Russian government has previously appeared to suggest that Musk’s satellites could be a “legitimate target for retaliation”. However, the Telsa chief then said he did not want Starlink to be used to conduct long-range offensive strikes.

Now, Kyiv’s top general has reportedly said his forces had had their access to Starlink restricted on a number of occasions. The latest Starlink refusal saw Ukraine’s armed forces unable to remotely pilot a drone packed with explosives into a Russian ship in occupied Crimea, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi claimed.

He raised the issue with his United States counterpart, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reports The New York Times. A Government spokesperson said the incident demonstrated that Ukraine “desperately” needs “absolute operational and technical independence” during “critical stages of the war.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, told The Telegraph: “The dependence of decision-making and its implementation must be 100 per cent. The risks for our military are too great when the course of offensive operations depends on external circumstances or third parties.”

Elon Musk has previously suggested that he can’t win when it comes to allowing Ukraine Starlink access. At the end of January – responding to claims he was a “war criminal” for allowing Starlink to be used by Ukrainian armed forces – he tweeted: “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. SpaceX Starlink has become the connectivity backbone of Ukraine all the way up to the front lines. This is the damned if you do part.

“However, we are not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes. This is the damned if you don’t part.”

A few months earlier, in October 2022, the Russian government indirectly warned Musk that it could shoot down his satellites. Konstantin Vorontsov, deputy head of the Russian delegation warned that “quasi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation”.

Last year, the 52-year-old South African-born billionaire published a “peace plan” for Ukraine. He suggested it should mirror sovereignty referendums organised by Russia in regions it occupied.

The Kremlin welcomed the billionaire’s suggestion as a “positive” step. Kyiv, however, accused him of presenting proposals aligned with Russian interests.

Ulrike Franke, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, suggested Musk – who recently changed the name of Twitter to X – has too much power. Franke said: “It doesn’t matter how you feel about Musk – no individual should have this power.”

And Kenneth Roth, a former executive director of Human Rights Watch, said Kyiv’s military operations were “in effect being second-guessed and sometimes rejected by Elon Musk, with his uncertain political loyalties and quirky personality”.

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