Elon Musk is a hooligan in the Russian war machine.
CEO of Tesla, the electric car maker (TSLA) It turned Moscow’s plan for communications on its head, a plan aimed at imposing its narrative on the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Everything seemed to go according to President Vladimir Putin’s plans until Musk, the world’s most influential CEO with nearly 106 million followers on Twitter, condemned the invasion by officially offering his support to Kyiv and the Ukrainians.
The businessman even went so far as to decide to send Starlink antennas to Ukraine to allow residents and local authorities to continue communicating with the outside world in order to tell their daily lives and their version of what is happening.
Life line of some Ukrainians
Starlink, Musk’s satellite Internet service, is allowing Ukrainians independent access to the Internet. The service also enables the country to stay connected to the outside world through the constellation of satellites orbiting around the Low Earth. Especially used in areas bombed by Russia and remote areas.
By sending Starlink to embattled Ukraine, the tech mogul sabotaged Moscow’s plans to isolate the country from the outside world by destroying its telecommunications infrastructure.
“Rough data on the use of Starlink: about 150 thousand daily active users. This is a critical support for Ukrainian infrastructure and the restoration of devastated lands,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mikhailo Fedorov said on May 2.
Fedorov explains that Starlink is now a kind of lifeline for many of his compatriots: “Ukraine will keep in touch no matter what,” he added.
The billionaire said in a tweet in May that the former head of the Russian Space Agency, Dmitry Rogozin, had threatened Musk’s life. “You must answer in an adult way, Elon, no matter how you turn on the fool,” Rogozin wrote in a letter.
Rogozin’s death threats reflected the frustration that had become so evident among influential Russian figures in favor of the war. Putin had expected his army to be able to take control of Ukraine within a few days. However, strong Ukrainian resistance and extremely poor performance by the Russian army combined to create a protracted conflict.
In May, Musk said Russia had tried to hack the Starlink network.
“Starlink has resisted attempts to hack and jam the Russian Internet so far, but is stepping up its efforts,” the Starlink mogul wrote on May 10.
More than three months later, Starlink appears to be still in Russia’s sights. The Russian delegation to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) made a recent statement at the September 12 meeting of the Office for Disarmament Affairs that appears to be indirectly targeting the SpaceX service.
“We would like to emphasize the existence of a very dangerous trend beyond the harmless use of outer space technologies, which became evident during the events in Ukraine. That is, the use of civilian, including commercial, elements by the United States and its allies, Russia said in its statement in Russian language ” Infrastructure in Outer Space for Military Purposes.” This is an English translation by TheStreet. You can end the original statement here.
Moscow added: “Our colleagues most likely do not seem to realize that such activities, in fact, constitute indirect participation in armed conflicts. Semi-civilian infrastructure may be a ‘legitimate target’ for retaliation.”
The statement did not name Starlink but the service has become an important part of the country’s communication system as noted by many users on social networks.
“Starlink has clearly become an important part of Ukraine’s command, control and communications system in parts of the country,” Shashank Joshi, defense journalist for The Economist commented on Twitter.
Musk appears to believe that the Russian statement is indeed targeting Starlink satellites. The billionaire just reminded Moscow that service is above all a tool of communication, not a tool of war.
“Starlink is for peaceful use only,” the businessman wrote on September 16.
He did not go into further details.
But he added several hours later: “To help fix the flaws in our stars.”
It is important to note that Moscow’s statements come at a difficult time for the country in this armed conflict. Russia has just suffered bitter consequences in eastern Ukraine.
At the beginning of September, Ukraine made a lightning breakthrough in the Russian lines and seized more than 6000 square kilometers of its territory near Kherson and Kharkiv, in the south and north-east of the country. These military successes have undermined Russian morale and raised doubts in the minds of some of the Russians who support this war.