Elon Musk says SpaceX can't pay for Starlink satellite service in Ukraine 'indefinitely'
Musk activated Starlink in Ukraine in February as internet services were disrupted by Russia's invasion
Elon Musk said on Friday SpaceX cannot "indefinitely" fund the Starlink internet service in Ukraine and send it several thousand more terminals, after a report suggested that his rocket company had asked the Pentagon to pay for the donations.
Musk's comment on the question of support for the internet service in Ukraine comes after he angered many Ukrainians with a proposal to end Russia's war in their country that included ceding some territory.
"SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households. This is unreasonable," Musk said on Twitter.
The billionaire boss of Tesla said Starlink was spending nearly $20 million US a month, he called it a "burn," for maintaining satellite services in Ukraine. He recently said that SpaceX had spent about $80 million to enable and support Starlink in Ukraine.
In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations & pay telcos for access to Internet via gateways. <br><br>We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder.<br><br>Burn is approaching ~$20M/month.—@elonmusk
CNN reported on Thursday that SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon last month saying it could not continue to fund the Starlink service in Ukraine and it may have to stop funding it unless the U.S. military helped with tens of millions of dollars a month.
SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters on the substance of that report.
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Kyiv will find a solution to keep the Starlink internet service working in Ukraine, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Friday.
"Let's be honest. Like it or not, @elonmusk helped us survive the most critical moments of war. Business has the right to its own strategies. Ukraine will find a solution to keep #Starlink working. We expect that the company will provide stable connection till the end of negotiations," Podolyak wrote on Twitter.
Sabrina Singh, a U.S. defence spokesperson, confirmed on Friday that the Pentagon had been "in touch with SpaceX" regarding the Starlink system, but had no details of the specifics of those conversations.
Criticized for Ukraine peace proposal
Musk activated Starlink in Ukraine in late February after internet services were disrupted because of Russia's invasion. SpaceX has since given it thousands of terminals.
Ukrainian Vice-Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said this week Starlink services helped restore energy and communications infrastructure in critical areas after more than 100 Russian cruise missile attacks.
Russia calls its intervention in Ukraine a "special military operation" and says it does not target civilians.
Musk drew widespread criticism from Ukrainians over a "peace plan" he tweeted last week, in which he proposed that Ukraine permanently cede the Crimea region to Russia, that new referendums be held under United Nations auspices to determine the fate of Russian-controlled territory and that Ukraine agree to neutrality.
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Ukraine says it will never agree to cede land taken by force, and lawful referendums cannot be held in occupied territory where many people have been killed or driven out.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was among those who criticized Musk's proposal.