Musk Says Russia’s Space Chief Threatened Him Over Starlink in Ukraine

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
May 9, 2022 Updated: May 9, 2022

Tech billionaire Elon Musk has said that the chief of Russia’s space agency threatened him with consequences for providing Starlink internet terminals to Ukrainian forces.

“Elon Musk, thus, is involved in supplying the fascist forces in Ukraine with military communication equipment,” Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, said in a message to Russian media, according to a translation provided by Musk.

“And for this, Elon, you will be held accountable like an adult—no matter how much you’ll play the fool.”

Musk commented on the exchange with a dose of dark humor, saying in a tweet, “If I die under mysterious circumstances, it’s been nice knowin ya.”

Rogozin posted the series of messages on his Telegram channel, including Musk’s joke.

Epoch Times Photo
Director General of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin stands in front of the Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on Dec. 8, 2021. (Shamil Zhumatov/Pool/Reuters)

Starlink ‘Changed the War’

Days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, Musk announced that SpaceX’s Starlink, a satellite broadband service, began providing internet to Ukrainians.

While Starlink delivered an information lifeline to darkened swaths of the war-torn country, including to hundreds of hospitals and clinics, it also served as a link to enable Ukrainian military drones to target Russian tanks and positions more effectively.

A Ukrainian soldier identified as Dima, whose last name was withheld for security reasons, told journalist David Patrikarakos that “Starlink is what changed the war in Ukraine’s favor. Russia went out of its way to blow up all our comms. Now they can’t. Starlink works under Katyusha fire, under artillery fire. It even works in Mariupol.”

While it’s unclear how crucial Starlink has been to Ukraine’s military efforts, a report in the British news outlet The Telegraph suggested Musk’s technology was helping Ukraine “win the drone war.”

Shortly after Musk’s announcement regarding supplying Ukraine with Starlink, Rogozin issued a strongly worded statement similar in tone to the one that prompted Musk to suggest his life is under threat.

“This is the West that we should never trust. When Russia implements its highest national interests on the territory of Ukraine, Elon Musk appears with his Starlink which was previously declared as purely civilian,” Rogozin said.

“I warned about it, but our ‘muskophiles’ said he is the light of world cosmonautics. Here, look, he has chosen the side.”

‘Restoring the Destroyed Territories’

Starlink uses thousands of small satellites in orbit about 340 miles above the Earth’s surface to beam down high-speed internet, especially to remote areas, including ones hit by natural calamities or ravaged by war.

As the Russia–Ukraine conflict entered its 70th day on May 2, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov revealed the number of users that are relying on Starlink.

“Rough data on Starlink’s usage: around 150K active users per day. This is crucial support for Ukraine’s infrastructure and restoring the destroyed territories,” Fedorov wrote in a post on Twitter.

While a number of platforms have taken action against Russian media outlets in the wake of the invasion, Musk has said that his company wouldn’t follow.

“Starlink has been told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources. We will not do so unless at gunpoint,” Musk wrote in a post on Twitter.

“Sorry to be a free speech absolutist.”

Musk has embarked on a free speech crusade of sorts, seeking to buy Twitter, reform what he’s described as the platform’s opaque moderation policies, and transform the social media giant into an “inclusive arena for free speech.”

Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'