Russians are using Starlink in their war on Ukraine

Originally published at:


I’ve heard this one before:

During the war, the car companies established a reputation for themselves as "the arsenal of democracy" by transforming their production lines to make airplanes, tanks and trucks for the armies that defeated Adolf Hitler. They deny that their huge business interests in Nazi Germany led them, wittingly or unwittingly, to also become "the arsenal of fascism."


Guessing Teslas won’t be popular in Ukraine. Ever.


we investigate the claim and take actions to deactivate the terminal ask Elon what to do if confirmed


well, profit is profit, and certainly in times of war. /s


If only there was some way to prevent this unethical revenue stream! How can they tell which services are in Russian occupied terrain? How can Starlink establish some sort of compliance team?


I wonder how quickly they investigate complaints.

My guess is that submitted complaints are answered only with a poop emoji.


How is this even possible? I’m curious what kind of contract this is. The Russian MoD is under sanctions. How can they even make a purchase of technology gear and service like this from an American company? Even if Elon wanted this to happen, how could it get through Starlink’s purchasing process and how could Starlink receive payment from them?

The only thing I can think of is they are using a front company somewhere, in which case it wouldn’t be instant for Starlink to track down how the purchase was made and turn them off.

If Elon really is somehow helping the Russians bypass sanctions, he’s an absolute idiot and will lose his security clearance and much else besides.




In other cases this would be called “trading with the enemy”, but I doubt that Musk sees Putin in that way.


I appreciate that you’re being facetious, but is it really a great idea to expect and trust Spacex to be the arbiters of exactly where the Ukrainian/Russian front line is at any given time?


When you owe the bank $10,000 the bank owns you. When you owe them $100 billion- you own the bank.

Alternatively- who doesn’t think that his muskrat employees would just do what he tells them?

He certainly didn’t lose his clearance for turning off Ukraine’s access to starlink - a service the U.S. was paying for.


This would suspend anyone else’s security clearance pending investigation:

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In normal, non-Russia scenarios, very quickly. They do not want people using the service who aren’t the ones that paid for it, and they don’t want customers to have their equipment stolen. Ensuring stolen equipment is useless once reported is a useful way to prevent that. But, it relies on the one stolen from doing the reporting, and clearly any people buying Starlink and then selling under-the-table to Russia aren’t going to do that.

I’m not actually sure how we should expect Starlink to know that it’s Russians using the service, here? The best I can think of is “Someone scouts out the GPS coordinates of each Starlink terminal in use by Russia, and SpaceX shuts down whatever terminal is at those coordinates.” No idea how easy that is, but it seems like it should be doable. That, or they find the identity of the buyers, report their info, and have SpaceX shut the account down. Both of these would need some work to make sure they’re not too susceptible to abuse, and I really don’t trust any company, let alone SpaceX, to be the final arbiters there.

Yes, in this comment I’m ignoring the specific Russia/Musk context here. Everyone else has covered it well, I’m just thinking about what an actual solution could look like if they were serious about providing one.


Wait, that Nazi has clearance?



These type of big institutions don’t have a direct chain of command from the CEO to the Receivables department. But aside from that…

Russia is cut off from SWIFT and from US credit cards. Especially the MoD is under sanctions. The US DoJ is enforcing this stuff aggressively and it would be hard to find a bank employee who would have the power and desire to find some way to get a payment from the Russian MoD.

The reason I’m saying this is because I don’t really believe that Starlink knowingly signed up the Russian MoD as a customer. I would easily believe the MoD went through some front companies (this happens all the time) and I can easily believe it would take Starlink some time and effort to track those down and ban them. But that’s very far from Elon being a Putin fanboy and eagerly providing Starlink to the Russian military.

To put another layer on this, Starlink is owned by SpaceX which is a DOD contractor. They are registered in and they had to agree to pages and pages of “reps and certs”, which include a commitment to not do business with Russia or violate sanctions. Here’s a recent Starlink contract with the VA. If you look at the PWS they list 70 other compliance documents that are incorporated by reference, all of which require documentation of compliance. They have a whole compliance department that monitors this and the people in that department are DoD careerists who don’t care what Elon (or anyone else) tells them to do.

You might say “Starlink should just shut down any terminals used in Ukraine on the Russian side” but the front lines are blurry, there are Ukrainian users and probably NATO and other users as well within Ukraine.

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Musk and his cronies are well aware of how to use corporate structures and shell companies to avoid regulation and law.

That’s why people go to Wharton.


Only slightly. I’d settle for a. statement on their efforts to apply their ToS enforcement capabilities to work with the government to at least understand the channels by which embargoes are being bypassed. Which TBF is hinted in their statement, but they do not need to wait for 3rd party reports.


The story seems to be that they are being bought in shady places like the UAE which have refused to sanction Putin’s regime, activated and then sent on to Russia.

I’d have thought Starlink would be able to geolocate terminals and block communications from anywhere in Russian territory. I wonder what excuse they will come up with to delay action.


Russian soldiers on the front line are outside Russian territory. They are so close to Ukrainian positions that geoblocking them would also block Ukrainian military users.

To block Russian military users in Ukraine, Starlink would have to block every terminal in front line areas that didn’t have a verified Ukrainian or friendly (US, NATO, etc.) account holder.


This really doesn’t seem hard to do. I’m surprised it isn’t already that way in a war zone, but I guess I can’t expect Elmo to do something reasonable.

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