Elon Musk balks at funding Ukraine’s Starlink satellites, as envoy tells him to ‘fuck you’ – POLITICO

Elon Musk said on Friday he was « just following the recommendation » of a Ukrainian diplomat who told the founder of SpaceX at « Kiss my ass« , seeking to absolve itself of the responsibility of financing its Starlink Internet terminals in Ukraine.

Musk trolling came after Ukraine’s former ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk and the country’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reacted with hostility to Musk last week by tweeting a series of Kremlin talking points, which he framed as a plan of peace in Russia’s war against Ukraine. This raised concerns in Kyiv and among his allies over whether Musk was still on Ukraine’s side in the war.

Musk’s tweet came in response to a CNN report that SpaceX had warned in a letter, dated September 8 and sent to the US Department of Defense, that it could no longer afford to supply its Starlink terminals, which are crucial for Ukraine’s military communication.

« We are not in a position to give more terminals to Ukraine, nor to finance existing terminals for an indefinite period », SpaceX said in the letter, which was signed by the company’s director of government sales, adding that the Pentagon should provide funding.

The Starlink satellite communications system has been crucial not only for Ukraine’s military communications, but also for the government to maintain contact with commanders, for Zelenskyy to conduct interviews with journalists, and for civilian communications, in connecting loved ones via encrypted satellites.

Funding the systems would cost more than $120 million for the rest of the year and the price could reach nearly $400 million for the next 12 months, according to SpaceX.

Ukraine received about 20,000 Starlink satellite units. Musk said last week that « the operation cost SpaceX $80 million and will exceed $100 million by the end of the year ».

Musk was initially praised for providing Starlink terminals to Ukraine, but according to SpaceX’s letter, the vast majority were partly or fully funded by other parties, including the US government, the UK and Poland. Poland is the largest contributor and paid for nearly 9,000 terminals, which cost $1,500 and $2,500 for the two models sent to Ukraine, the documents show.

Those governments also paid for a third of the internet connectivity while SpaceX funded the rest, making up the most expensive part of the bill, according to SpaceX.

Also among the documents seen by CNN is a request from Ukrainian General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi to SpaceX for nearly 8,000 additional Starlink terminals. SpaceX reportedly responded by recommending that the request be sent to the US Department of Defense.

The spat comes shortly after recent reports of Starlink outages, which disrupted crucial Ukrainian military communications on the front lines.

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