Elon Musk has sparked a backlash as he admitted his Starlink satellite communications network was not activated near the Crimean coast – effectively thwarting a sneak attack by Ukrainian forces on Russian ships.
Ukrainian officials have reacted furiously to claims in a new biography of the tech billionaire which reportedly says the secret order meant Ukrainian submarine drones strapped with explosives “lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly,” as they approached the Russian fleet last year.
An aide to Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak, responded to the claims and said the decision effectively allowed the Russian warships “to fire Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities”.
“Sometimes a mistake is much more than just a mistake,” Mr Podolyak wrote.
Ukraine war latest: Billionaire’s admission sets worrying precedent
But for Musk, the decision to not activate the service was a way of keeping Starlink out of the conflict and avoiding catastrophe.
Musk posted on X, formerly Twitter, overnight, that agreeing to Kyiv’s “emergency request” to activate Starlink “all the way to Sevastopol”, would have meant SpaceX would be “explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation”.
“The Starlink regions in question were not activated. SpaceX did not deactivate anything,” he said.
“Both sides should agree to a truce. Every day that passes, more Ukrainian and Russian youth die to gain and lose small pieces of land, with borders barely changing. This is not worth their lives.”
It comes following excerpts published by CNN, from Walter Isaacson’s soon-to-be-released biography of Musk, in which the billionaire is said to believe Starlink “was not meant to be involved in wars. It was so people can watch Netflix and chill and get online for school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes”.”
And that Musk wanted to avoid what he called “a mini-Pearl Harbour”.
After Russia disrupted Ukraine’s communications systems just before its full-scale invasion in February 2022, Musk agreed to provide Ukraine with millions of dollars of SpaceX-made Starlink satellite terminals, which became crucial to Ukraine’s military operations.
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Those terminals allowed Ukraine to stay connected despite Moscow’s interference with its technological infrastructure.
Mr Isaacson has previously written biographies of Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein.