Zelensky Lashes Out After Starlink Cuts Off Ukrainian Drones
SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell in a statement asserted that Starlink technology was "never meant to be weaponized". According to BBC, "She made reference to Ukraine's alleged use of Starlink to control drones, and stressed that the equipment had been provided for humanitarian use."
Shotwell confirmed that the "surprise decision" was taken due to it never being the company's intent to allow Starlink to be used "for offensive purposes" in remarks given before a conference in Washington DC. Shotwell further said Ukraine had utilized the technology—
"in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement," according to Reuters.
After Musk provided the Starlink systems, the Ukrainian military quickly became dependent on them given the extreme battlefield conditions, including damage to existent communications infrastructure and frequent power outages. Additionally the Russians would often jam signals, thus Starlink allowed Ukrainian troops to circumvent these factors.
The Wednesday announcement from SpaceX was met with anger in Kiev, after already there's been an avalanche of Ukrainian government criticism aimed at Musk personally over his 'Russia-Ukraine peace poll' offered in October. As Bloomberg observed during that prior spat and tensions, Musk's tweets were "drawing the wrath of Ukrainians" merely for his proposing a negotiated solution which involved territorial concessions for the sake of lasting peace.
Zelensky’s office issued a denunciation on Thursday, complaining that Musk’s company has failed to understand or acknowledge Ukraine’s right of self-defense in making the decision.
Presidential spokesman Mykhailo Podolyak suggested Musk is playing into Putin’s hands, stating SpaceX must decide whether it’s “on the side of the right to freedom” or “on the Russian Federation’s side and its ‘right’ to kill and seize territories”.
It must be remembered that soon after last year’s Russian invasion, Ukrainian officials essentially begged Musk to come to the rescue. A direct plea by Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, at the time resulted in confirmation from Musk himself: “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine,” Musk affirmed in reply.