Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX and Tesla and owner of Twitter, looks on as he attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Center in Paris, France, June 16, 2023.
Gonzalo Fuentes | Reuters
WASHINGTON — A Ukrainian official slammed Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, for last year ordering engineers to shut down Starlink’s satellite network over Crimea to thwart a Ukrainian attack on Russian warships.
According to a new Musk biography, the South African-born billionaire asked, “How am I doing in this war?” during an interview with author Walter Isaacson.
In the early days of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, as Western governments attempted to supply Kiev with artillery and air defense systems, Musk’s first Starlink terminals arrived in the country. The billionaire was ultimately soured by the scheme.
“Starlink was not supposed to be involved in wars. It was so people can watch Netflix and chill and go online for school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes,” Musk said, according to the book. He told Isaacson he feared the Ukrainian attack on Russian ships would prompt the Kremlin to launch a nuclear war. The book, titled ‘Elon Musk’, will be published on Tuesday.
A top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lashed out at Musk over the revelation.
“By not allowing Ukrainian drones to destroy part of the Russian military fleet via Starlink interference, Elon Musk allowed this fleet to fire Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities,” Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on social media Thursday after CNN reported. about some details from Isaacson’s book. .
“As a result, civilians and children are being killed. This is the price of a cocktail of ignorance and a big ego,” he added on X, formerly known as Twitter. Musk bought Twitter last year.
Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula that Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, is home to Russian warships in the Black Sea. In the days following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Russia in February 2022, the Black Sea fleet fired missiles at once-zealous Ukrainian coastal cities while imposing a devastating naval blockade.
Ukrainian digital minister Mykhailo Fedorov, who had asked Musk about Starlink capabilities on Twitter, posted that Starlink was “here” in Ukraine — with a show photo more than twenty boxes in the back of a truck.
Starlink is SpaceX’s global network of more than 4,000 satellites serving more than 50 countries. In Ukraine, Starlink has acted as a connective tissue for critical battlefield communications.
Isaacson added that Musk’s decision was discussed during a phone call with President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Army, General Mark Milley.
Musk was also involved in a text conversation with Fedorov, according to Isaacson. The official pleaded with Musk to restore Starlink connectivity so that Ukrainian submarine drones could launch the attack on the Russian war fleet.
Musk responded that he felt Ukraine “went too far and invited strategic defeat,” according to Isaacson’s book.
“I think if the Ukrainian attacks had succeeded in sinking the Russian fleet, it would have been a kind of mini-Pearl Harbor and led to a major escalation,” Musk said, according to Isaacson. “We didn’t want to be a part of that.”