Elon Musk’s SpaceX has accused Ukraine’s military of “weaponising” its Starlink internet system in its war against Russia.
Ukraine’s use of SpaceX’s satellite internet system has been restricted amid claims that Kyiv has been using the technology for “offensive purposes.”
“Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and its most senior executive after Mr Musk.
Speaking at a conference, Ms Shotwell said Ukraine had contravened its agreement with the company.
“We know the military is using them for comms, and that’s ok. But our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes,” Ms Shotwell said.
SpaceX’s president did not elaborate on how exactly Ukrainian forces were using the system for attacks.
Mr Musk said last month that SpaceX was not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes.
“There are things that we can do to limit their ability to do that,” she said, about Starlink being used by drones. “There are things that we can do, and have done,” she added, declining to give details.
Starlink was “never intended to be weaponised,” Ms Shotwell added.
Ukraine has not yet commented on the development.
Starlink, which beams internet signals from space to portable satellite dishes on the ground, has been a crucial weapon in Ukraine’s defence against Russia, allowing drones to monitor Russian troop manoeuvres and adapt their tactics on the ground.
Mr Musk rushed to offer Starlink terminals to Ukraine in the early days of Vladimir Putin’s invasion to help maintain connectivity across the country as infrastructure was bombarded. The service has been used to provide Wi-Fi to civilians in cities where mobile and broadband services have been cut off.
The service has proved resilient to Russian hacking attempts even as the Kremlin bombards traditional telecoms infrastructure.
However, Mr Musk has since demanded that Ukraine pay for Starlink terminals sent to the country, saying that donations have cost the company close to $100m (£82m). Governments including the US have subsequently paid for further shipments.
He has said this week that Starlink is ready to activate its service in Turkey to aid humanitarian efforts in response to the country’s recent earthquake. Turkey’s government has declined the offer.
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