Elon Musk considered pulling plug on Ukraine’s Starlink access after ‘great conversation with Putin’

Tech billionaire worried about being seen ‘in Russia as enabling Ukrainian war effort’

21 August 2023

Elon Musk pondered pulling Starlink satellite internet from Ukraine because he feared being perceived as a warmonger in Russia, a former Pentagon official has said.

The 52 year-old South African-born billionaire expressed his concerns after Ukrainian forces reported network outages close to the front lines separating them from their Russian occupiers.

Colin Kahl, a US undersecretary of defence for policy until last month, was charged with brokering a deal to prevent Mr Musk from turning the system off altogether.

“If you turn this off, it doesn’t end the war,” Mr Kahl recalled telling the SpaceX chief, in an interview with The New Yorker.

“My inference was that he was getting nervous that Starlink’s involvement was increasingly seen in Russia as enabling the Ukrainian war effort, and was looking for a way to placate Russian concerns,” the former US official added.

Ukrainian Territorial Defence near Kherson Front using the Starlink system
Ukrainian Territorial Defence near Kherson Front using the Starlink system CREDIT: JULIAN SIMMONDS

Last year, Mr Musk was accused of publishing a Kremlin-friendly peace proposal, suggesting Ukraine should mirror sovereignty referendums organised by Russia in regions it occupied.

The outages were felt hardest in the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The four Ukrainian oblasts, parts of which were occupied by Russian forces, were all claimed as part of Russia after referendums staged by Kremlin proxies.

Mr Musk told Pentagon officials during negotiations over Starlink that he had held personal talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin, the New Yorker reported.

Satellite terminals donated by Mr Musk’s SpaceX, as well as the US government and private donors, have become vital to Ukrainian military communications.

The “constellation” of satellites, operated by Mr Musk’s SpaceX firm, are used to coordinate drone and artillery strikes, stream live video from the battlefield and gather intelligence.

Ukraine says the communications system is vital to their defence networks
Ukraine says the communications system is vital to their defence networks CREDIT: ArmyInform

Mr Musk boasted that he could see the “entire war unfolding” through a map of Starlink activity. He told Mr Kahl that live information had made him hesitate over whether his satellite internet system was being used for peaceful means or to wage war.

“This was, like, three minutes before he said, ‘well, I had this great conversation with Putin’,” Mr Kahl said.

Offensive capabilities

The technology entrepreneur has long-held reservations over his system being used for offensive capabilities. It was recently reported he had forced Ukraine to drop a planned naval drone strike in the Black Sea by refusing access to the Starlink network around occupied Crimea.

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s top general, has said his military’s success was dependent on continued access to the system.

Aides to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky have previously attempted to ease Mr Musk’s concerns by telling him the system is “about defence, advancement, and survival”, a source told The Telegraph.

Mr Musk has also baulked at the cost of providing the system, which was estimated at nearly $400 million (£310 million) for a 12-month period, according to a report by CNN.

In June, the Pentagon announced it had reached a deal with SpaceX to maintain the system’s use in Ukraine, without disclosing the terms of the agreement.

The pact, which is believed to give Ukraine unabridged access to the system, is seen as a step away from Mr Musk having a significant role in the battlefield as Kyiv’s counter-offensive continues.

The Telegraph has approached representatives of Mr Musk and SpaceX for comment.


  1. This sick motherfucker is a modern day version of nazi sympathizer and holocaust fan Henry Ford.
    The bastard commented “epic thread” on a genocidal rant by demented dwarf nazi Medvedev on his wretched Twitter site, which should now be known as Z rather than X.
    Hasn’t this deeply unAmerican piece of crud committed any crimes in US law?
    His businesses should be seized and he should be locked up on a psych ward.

    • You’re absolutely right. What worries me is that this leniency towards war criminals seems really contagious. A certain number of political and media people are visibly ready to “deal” permanently with the Nazis in the Kremlin, with in the background: the Boutcha massacre, the deportation of children and the Ukrainian genocide more generally.

      It’s obscene! Musk’s diatribes have more to do with advocating terrorism than expressing an opinion.

      After the resolution of the conflict, if justice still exists a little, some will perhaps be surprised to also receive a summons to The Hague!

  2. Last year Muskov proposed that:

    “Ukraine permanently cede Crimea to Russia, that new referendums be held under U.N. auspices to determine the fate of Russian-controlled territory, and that Ukraine agree to neutrality.”

    Almost identical to the plans of RFK Jr, Trump, Ramaswamy, Sarkozy and of course putler.

    It was praised by the kremlin on Oct 4, 2022:

    “It is very positive that somebody like Elon Musk is looking for a peaceful way out of this situation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call.

    “Compared to many professional diplomats, Musk is still searching for ways to achieve peace. And achieving peace without fulfilling Russia’s conditions is absolutely impossible,” he added.”

    Piss-cough reiterated the putler total surrender policy. It won’t change until or unless the putinaZis are crushed.

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