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World News

Russia’s Starlink project via NATO proxy revealed in Sting report

Russian forces are buying Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite communications network from private sellers and using them in occupied Ukraine by connecting them to networks in NATO member Poland, according to independent investigative journalism site Important Stories (IStories).

IStories journalists said they spoke with representatives of three Russian websites that announced the sale of the Starlink devices, operated by Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX.

A person watches as SpaceX’s super-heavy craft unloads from the booster while on the launch pad at Starbase Boca Chica, Texas, November 16, 2023. Ukrainian military intelligence said the Russians. ..


TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Two of the representatives for separate websites said personal accounts on the devices connected to a network through Poland, while the individual behind a third site said they connected “through a European country.” Poland shares a border with Ukraine.

Ukrainian military intelligence said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces in Ukraine are increasingly using Starlink terminals on the battlefield, while other Russian media also report that Starlink satellite communications systems are now being sold through several Russian online stores, supplied through an intermediary in Dubai.

News week contacted the foreign ministries of the United Arab Emirates, Poland and Russia for comment by email.

In response to a News week via email, SpaceX did not provide comment, instead referring to its statement via a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“SpaceX does not do any business with the Russian government or its military,” said the statement posted on Musk’s social media platform.

“Starlink is not active in Russia, which means the service will not work in that country. SpaceX has never sold or marketed Starlink in Russia, nor shipped equipment to locations in Russia. If Russian stores pretend to sell Starlink for service in this country, they are scamming their customers.

“Starlink also does not operate in Dubai. Starlink cannot be purchased in Dubai nor does SpaceX ship there. Additionally, Starlink has not authorized any third party intermediaries, resellers or distributors of any kind for sale Starlink in Dubai.

“If SpaceX learns that a Starlink terminal is being used by a sanctioned or unauthorized party, we will investigate the claim and take action to deactivate the terminal if confirmed.”

The statement did not explicitly address Starlink’s potential use outside of Russia, including in occupied Ukraine, fueling further speculation. The map of geographic areas covered by Starlink on its website appears to include at least some disputed territories and those occupied by Russia.

Musk said in a statement on X that reports that SpaceX would sell Starlink terminals to Russia were false. “To our knowledge, no Starlink has been sold directly or indirectly to Russia,” he wrote.

Musk’s SpaceX deployed its Starlink satellites to help provide internet service to kyiv at the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Musk said the satellite internet system gives Ukraine a “major advantage on the battlefield.”

Last year, Musk said he refused to allow Ukraine to use Starlink internet services to launch an attack on Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, to avoid complicity in an “act of major war.”

“There has been an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink to Sevastopol,” he wrote in early September 2023 on anchorage. If I had acceded to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and an escalation of conflict.”

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