Polish private company sold Elon Musk’s Starlink internet to Russian army and Wagner mercenary group

Russian forces are buying Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite communications network from private sellers and are using them in occupied Ukraine by connecting them to networks in NATO-member Poland, according to the independent investigative journalism site Important Stories (IStories).

Journalists with IStories said they spoke with the representatives of three Russian websites who have advertised selling the Starlink devices, which are operated by Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX.

Two of the representatives of separate websites said that personal accounts on the devices connect to a network through Poland, while the individual behind a third site said that they connect “through a European country.” Poland shares a border with Ukraine.

Wagner mercenary group handed over Starlink internet terminal to the African militia.

Ukrainian military intelligence has said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces in Ukraine are increasingly using Starlink terminals on the battlefield, while other Russian news outlets also report that Starlink satellite communications systems are now being sold via multiple Russian online stores, supplied via an intermediary in Dubai.

In response to a Newsweek email, SpaceX did not provide a comment, linking instead to its statement via a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“SpaceX does not do business of any kind with the Russian Government or its military,” the statement on Musk’s social media platform said.

“Starlink is not active in Russia, meaning service will not work in that country. SpaceX has never sold or marketed Starlink in Russia, nor has it shipped equipment to locations in Russia. If Russian stores are claiming to sell Starlink for service in that country, they are scamming their customers.

“Starlink also does not operate in Dubai. Starlink cannot be purchased in Dubai nor does SpaceX ship there. Additionally, Starlink has not authorized any third-party intermediaries, resellers or distributors of any kind to sell Starlink in Dubai.

“If SpaceX obtains knowledge that a Starlink terminal is being used by a sanctioned or unauthorized party, we investigate the claim and take actions to deactivate the terminal if confirmed.”

The statement did not explicitly address the question about the potential use of Starlink outside Russia, namely in occupied Ukraine, fueling further speculation. The map of the geographies covered by Starlink on its website appears to include at least some contested territories and those occupied by Russia.

Musk said in a statement on X that reports SpaceX is selling Starlink terminals to Russia are false. “To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia,” he wrote.

Musk’s SpaceX deployed its Starlink satellites to help provide Kyiv with internet service in the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Musk has said that the satellite internet system provides Ukraine with a “major battlefield advantage.”

Last year, Musk said he refused to allow Ukraine to use Starlink internet services to launch an attack on Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, to avoid complicity in a “major act of war.”

“There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol,” he wrote in early September 2023 on X. “The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor. If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”

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