Elon Musk Threatened by Russia’s Space Agency Chief Over Starlink in Ukraine
Elon Musk Threatened by Russia’s Space Agency Chief Over Starlink in Ukraine

By Tom Ozimek

Billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk said that the chief of Russia’s space agency threatened him with consequences for providing Starlink internet terminals to Ukrainian forces.

“Elon Musk, thus, is involved in supplying the fascist forces in Ukraine with military communication equipment,” Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, said in a message to Russian media, according to a translation provided by Musk.

“And for this, Elon, you will be held accountable like an adult—no matter how much you’ll play the fool,” Rogozin added.

Musk commented on the exchange with a dose of dark humor, saying in a tweet: “If I die under mysterious circumstances, it’s been nice knowin ya.”

Rogozin posted the series of messages on his Telegram channel, including Musk’s hangman’s joke.

Elon Musk arrives for the 2022 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, on May 2, 2022. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Starlink ‘Changed the War’

Days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, Musk announced that SpaceX’s Starlink, a satellite broadband service, started providing internet to Ukrainians.

While Starlink delivered an information lifeline to darkened swaths of the war-torn country, including to hundreds of hospitals and clinics, it also served as a link to enable Ukrainian military drones to target Russian tanks and positions more effectively.

A Ukrainian soldier identified as Dima, whose last name was withheld for security reasons, told journalist David Patrikarakos that, “Starlink is what changed the war in Ukraine’s favor. Russia went out of its way to blow up all our comms. Now they can’t. Starlink works under Katyusha fire, under artillery fire. It even works in Mariupol.”

While it’s unclear how crucial Starlink has been to Ukraine’s military efforts, a report in British news outlet The Telegraph suggested Musk’s technology was helping Ukraine “win the drone war.”

Shortly after Musk’s announcement regarding supplying Ukraine with Starlink, Rogozin issued a strongly-worded statement similar in tone to the one that prompted Musk to suggest his life is under threat.

“This is the West that we should never trust. When Russia implements its highest national interests on the territory of Ukraine, Elon Musk appears with his Starlink which was previously declared as purely civilian,” Rogozin said.

“I warned about it, but our ‘muskophiles’ said he is the light of world cosmonautics. Here, look, he has chosen the side,” Rogozin added at the time.

‘Restoring the Destroyed Territories’

Starlink uses thousands of small satellites in orbit around 340 miles above the earth’s surface to beam down high-speed internet, especially to remote areas, including ones hit by natural calamities or ravaged by war.

As the Russia–Ukraine conflict entered its 70th day on May 2, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted to reveal the number of users that are relying on Starlink.

“..around 150K active users per day. This is crucial support for Ukraine’s infrastructure and restoring the destroyed territories,” Fedorov wrote in a post on Twitter.

While a number of platforms have taken action against Russian media outlets in the wake of the invasion, Musk has said that his company wouldn’t follow in their footsteps.

“Starlink has been told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources. We will not do so unless at gunpoint,” Musk wrote in a post on Twitter.

“Sorry to be a free speech absolutist,” he added.

Musk has embarked on a free speech crusade of sorts, seeking to buy Twitter, reform what he’s described as the platform’s opaque moderation policies, and transform the social media giant into an “inclusive arena for free speech.”

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