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Elon Musk cut off Starlink comms system amid Ukraine attack on Russian fleet: Report

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Elon Musk said he refused a Ukrainian request to activate his Starlink satellite network in Crimea’s port city of Sevastopol last year to aid an attack on Russia’s fleet there, saying he feared complicity in a “major” act of war.

The billionaire businessman made the comment on his social media platform X after CNN cited an excerpt from a new biography of Musk that says he ordered the Starlink network turned off near the Crimean coast last year to disrupt the Ukrainian sneak attack.

In the post on X - formerly known as Twitter - late on Thursday, Musk said he had no choice but to reject an emergency request from Ukraine “to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol.” He did not give the date of the request and the excerpt did not specify it.

“The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor,” Musk wrote. “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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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ordered engineers in his aerospace company to turn off its Starlink satellite communication network that disrupted an ongoing Ukrainian attack on a Russian naval fleet, CNN reported Thursday citing an excerpt adapted from Walter Isaacson’s new biography of the billionaire.

The incident, which took place in 2022 near the Crimean coast, was a Ukrainian-devised sneak attack with submarine drones carrying explosives, using the Musk-provided satellite link for connectivity.

The Ukrainian fleet was approaching the Russian fleet when Musk made the decision, reportedly out of fear of nuclear war – which he dubbed a “mini Pearl Harbor” - that would ensue if the attack proceeded.

The submarines, having lost contact and control, disengaged from the network and washed ashore, the report said.

During the connectivity blackout, Ukrainian officials pleaded with the eccentric entrepreneur to turn the link back on, but the demand was refused, according to the biography to be released on Tuesday.

Following reports of the Musk-ordered communications blackout, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lashed out on X, formerly known as Twitter, against its owner Musk.

“Sometimes a mistake is much more than just a mistake. By not allowing Ukrainian drones to destroy part of the Russian military (!) fleet via #Starlink interference, @elonmusk allowed this fleet to fire Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities. As a result, civilians, children are being killed.”

“This is the price of a cocktail of ignorance and big ego. However, the question still remains: why do some people so desperately want to defend war criminals and their desire to commit murder? And do they now realize that they are committing evil and encouraging evil?,” he concluded.

Starlink is relied upon by both military and civilian users after Russia cut Ukraine’s communication system shortly before the 2022 invasion. At the time, Musk promised and delivered Starlink terminals that would utilize satellites in space to access the internet and maintain communication.

Following its dispatch to the now war-torn country, Musk may have had second thoughts. “How am I in this war?” Musk reportedly asks Isaacson. “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.”

Musk is the CEO of EV company Tesla, space exploration firm SpaceX which handles the Starlink satellite system, and the owner of X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter.

The 52-year-old agreed to supply Starlink equipment to Ukraine soon after the communications disruption. However, over time, numerous reports have highlighted Musk’s dilemma on playing a role in the war with concerns over his support for either.

With Reuters

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