February 28, 2024

The Kremlin joined SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in denying reports that Starlink broadband internet terminals are being sold to and used by Russian troops in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday there “is not a certified system with us; accordingly, it cannot be officially supplied here and is not officially supplied” and therefore “cannot be used officially in any way,” Reuters reported.

On Sunday, the Defense Intelligence agency of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported Russian troops in occupied areas of the country are using Starlink satellites.

“Radio intercepts of the invaders’ conversations indicate that Starlink terminals were installed, for example, in units of the 83rd Separate Air Assault Brigade of the Russian armed forces in order to establish Internet access,” the Defense Intelligence agency said. The 83rd Air Assault Brigade is operating in the Donetsk region, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Andriy Yusov, a Defense Intelligence agency spokesperson, said the use of Starlink terminals “is growing” and “starting to become systemic.”

But Musk responded to the reports in a post on X Sunday, calling them “categorically false.”

“To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia,” Musk wrote. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Quartz.

Thousands of Starlink terminals were sent to Ukraine in March 2022 after Russia’s invasion that February. US officials had sought ways to keep the Ukrainian government online weeks before the invasion, primarily due to fears of Russian physical and cyberattacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. Government contractor DAI began searching for the equipment as early as Feb. 11, according to documents Quartz obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request in 2022, and selected Starlink’s satellite-antenna terminals.

In a request for the terminals in March 2022 by government contractor DAI, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) bought 1,333 terminals for $1,999,993, while SpaceX also donated 3,600 terminals to Ukraine.

“DAI and USAID are doing everything possible to make sure the internet connection is established in advance of any disruption in telecommunications,” a DAI official wrote in the request.

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