Russians are using Starlink in their war on Ukraine

I mean…

How many hundreds of thousands of terminals would they have to sell to lose track of which, let’s say few hundred? Maybe a thousand? units they’ve sold to Ukraine? Terminals operating in a closed, proprietary, single supplier / operator ecosystem?

If there was any kind of actual technical issue here it could be easily solved. My assumption is that this isn’t a technical issue.

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I order a Starlink unit from John Lewis department store and get it delivered in a few days. I buy a subscription with my credit card, registered address somewhere innocuous. I post the equipment to my contact in Turkey, who posts it on to the Soviet Union. It ends up in a Russian army HQ bunker a few hundred metres from a Ukrainian army HQ bunker on the front line. The Russian Embassy UK is paying me monthly to finance the subscription. My subscribed address differs from the geo-location of the actual dish, but that’s the point of Starlink – t’s for remote areas where there are no reliable landline connections.

How easy is it for Starlink to connect all the dots, and distinguish my hardware from the Ukrainian hardware?

The Russian army is not using captured Starlink terminals. Patriotic Russian citizens are buying them, presumably from third countries, and donating them.

A terminal operating in Ukraine with a subscription paid from a British credit card ought to stick out like a sore thumb.


Additional information, links:


“Hey that’s odd. The dishy John Doe registered in Kansas has appeared in Donetsk? Maybe our ToS team should call John or add this service to a suspicion list”

“Hey, are any of these services registered in Ukraine?”

The hands in between are not particularly relevant.

Hey, even send the GPS coordinates to the Ukranians for them to sort. Well, that might be a step too far.

I get the 40ish minute flight over to London on a day trip and the bank is asking me about suspicious activity!

They are getting enough money from the DoJ to get actual live people to look at this and fix it.


Probably not so much:

I suppose it wouldn’t be technically impossible, just expensive (implementing and supporting a new country-specific verification and filtering pipeline) and thankless (false positives and/or false negatives would be inevitable, drawing further criticism). That would be enough to give pause to an entirely well-meaning enterprise, and here we’re talking about Elon the appeaser.


The Starlink terminals installed in the war zone are mostly owned by the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, but there are also terminals purchased by volunteers. According to Klimarev, Starlink has the technical ability to clarify the parameters of the stations located in the occupied territories in case of suspicion, and to shut down the stations used by the Russian Armed Forces, but lacks the political will to do so.


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