Ukrainian defense intelligence confirms Russia using Elon Musk’s Starlink internet in occupied territories

Starlink terminals, which provide high-speed communications, have been vital in giving Ukraine’s military an edge over invading Russian troops.

Ukrainian intelligence said it has confirmed that Russian forces are using satellite internet service Starlink on the battlefield in occupied areas in the east of the country.

Releasing what it said on Sunday was proof, Ukraine’s military intelligence said it has confirmed earlier reports that of the “systemic” use by Russian troops of terminals of Elon Musk’s satellite communications system.

Starlink systems have been vital for Ukraine‘s battlefield communications in Russia’s nearly two-year-old invasion as Kyiv has faced a larger and better-equipped military. The personal control of Starlink by the US billionaire, who has regularly repeated Kremlin talking points regarding the conflict, remains a concern for Kyiv and its allies.

The terminals were rushed in to help Ukraine after Russia’s February 2022 invasion and have been vital to Kyiv’s battlefield communications.

Following reports in Ukraine, Space X said last week that it “does not do business of any kind with the Russian government or its military”.

However, the Ministry of Defence’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) posted an audio clip on Telegram which it said featured Russian troops discussing setting up the terminals in eastern Ukraine.

“Cases of the Russian occupiers’ use of the given devices have been registered. It is beginning to take on a systemic nature,” GUR quoted spokesman Andriy Yusov as saying.

In a statement, the agency said the terminals were being used by units like Russia’s 83rd Air Assault Brigade, which is fighting near the embattled towns of Klishchiivka and Andriivka in the partially-occupied eastern region of Donetsk.

Reports from Ukraine last week claimed that Russia has been sourcing Starlink equipment in spots such as Dubai.

Western tech components have regularly been found among Russia’s arsenal as Moscow has become more skilled at evading sanctions, often importing goods via third countries.

Russian forces launched 45 drones at Ukraine overnight, Kyiv reported on Sunday.

The five-and-a-half-hour attack targeted agricultural facilities and coastal infrastructure, officials for Ukraine’s southern defence forces wrote on Telegram. They added that a strike in the Mykolaiv region had injured one person, sparking a fire and damaging nearby residential buildings.

Another person was injured in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region when a blaze broke out due to falling debris from a destroyed drone, said the head of the region’s military administration, Serhiy Lysak.

The strikes come as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy continues his shakeup of military commanders in a bid to maintain momentum against attacking Russian forces.

Kyiv announced that former Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Pavlyuk would become the new commander of Ukraine’s ground forces. The post was previously held by Oleksandr Syrsky, who was named Thursday as the replacement for Ukraine’s outgoing military chief, Valerii Zaluzhny.

New presidential decrees also named Yurii Sodol, the former head of Ukraine’s marine corps, as the new commander of Ukraine’s combined forces; Ihor Skibiuk as commander of Ukraine’s air assault forces; and Ihor Plahuta as commander of Ukraine’s territorial defence forces.

Incoming commander-in-chief Syrsky has signalled that his immediate goals include improving troop rotation at the front lines and harnessing the power of new technology at a time when Kyiv’s forces are largely on the defensive.

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