Elon Musk said he refused to give Kiev access to his Starlink communications network via Crimea to avoid complicity in a “major act of war”.
According to him, Kyiv sent an emergency request to activate Starlink to Sevastopol, where the Russian Navy’s large port is located. His comments came after the book claimed he shut down Starlink to thwart a drone attack on Russian ships. A senior Ukrainian official said it enabled the Russian attacks and accused him of “committing evil”. Russian naval vessels have since been involved in deadly attacks on civilians, he said.
Elon Musk “allowed that fleet to launch Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities by not allowing Ukrainian drones to destroy part of the Russian military fleet through Starlink jamming,” he claimed. “Why are some people so desperate to defend war criminals and their desire to commit murder? And do they now realize that they are committing evil and inciting evil?” he added.
The dispute follows the publication of a biography of the billionaire by Walter Isaacson, which claims Mr Musk cut off Ukraine’s access to Starlink because he feared an ambush of the Russian naval fleet in Crimea could trigger a nuclear response from the Kremlin.
Ukraine attacked Russian ships in Sevastopol with underwater drones carrying explosives, but they lost contact with Starlink and “washed harmlessly ashore”, Mr Isaacson wrote. The Starlink terminals connect to SpaceX satellites in orbit and have been key to maintaining Internet connectivity and communications in Ukraine as the conflict has disrupted the country’s infrastructure.
SpaceX, of which Mr Musk is the largest shareholder, began providing thousands of Starlink satellite dishes to Ukraine shortly after Russia launched a full-scale attack on its neighbor in February last year. Responding to the book’s claims, Mr. Musk said on X that SpaceX “didn’t deactivate anything” because it wasn’t activated at all in those regions.
“Government authorities urgently requested the activation of Starlink as far as Sevastopol. The apparent intention was to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor,” he said. “SpaceX would be explicitly taking part in a significant act of war andescalation of the conflict if I were to agree to their request,” he continued. Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian prime minister, tweeted: “If what Isaacson wrote in his book is true, then it looks like Musk is the last adequate mind in North America.”
Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, eight years before Moscow launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine. While the technology has “become the backbone of Ukraine’s connectivity to the front lines,” Mr. Musk has previously stated that “we are not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes.”
Mr Musk reiterated this point to Mr Isaacson, asking: “How am I in this war? Starlink was not supposed to be involved in wars. It was so people could watch Netflix and relax and be online to school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes .” He also offered a personal opinion, calling for a ceasefire and saying that Ukrainians and Russians are dying “to gain and lose small pieces of land” and it is not worth their lives.
He sparked anger last year when he proposed a plan to end the war that suggested the world formally recognize Crimea as part of Russia and asked residents of the regions Russia seized last year to vote on which countries they wanted to be a part of. Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov said the plan showed “moral idiocy”