California: Elon Musk warned his company SpaceX cannot help carry the cost of high-speed broadband internet for Ukraine indefinitely, after an earlier furor over his public comments suggesting the government in Kyiv cede territory in exchange for peace with Russia.
SpaceX “is not asking to recoup past expenses” on Starlink services in Ukraine, Musk said on Twitter, but it also cannot sustain the financial support or send thousands more terminals to Ukraine. The Starlink terminals deployed in Ukraine are using data as much as 100 times the amount of typical households, Musk added. A week ago he tweeted that Starlink in Ukraine had cost SpaceX $80 million, which would likely surpass $100 million by the end of the year.
Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister for digital transformation, has said previously the country is getting Starlink terminals free of charge, although he added there might be a different arrangement between Musk and the US Agency for International Development and European entities which provided most of the Starlinks to Ukraine. The terminals are proving crucial in supporting infrastructure across Ukraine and for its troops on the ground against Russian forces.
CNN reported on Thursday that SpaceX warned the Pentagon in September it may no longer part-fund the Starlink service in Ukraine unless the US military provided tens of millions of dollars of support per month. Musk is the world’s richest man.
There was no immediate comment from the Ukraine president’s office or the information ministry.
Musk angered Ukrainians - from President Volodymyr Zelenskiy down - with his recent suggestion that Ukraine should seek a negotiated solution to the move by Russia. Musk also launched a Twitter poll asking citizens of recently annexed occupied parts of eastern Ukraine and Crimea to decide if they want to live in Russia or Ukraine, days after Ukraine, Europe and the US denounced the annexation moves of President Vladimir Putin.
Ian Bremmer, head of political-risk consultancy Eurasia Group, wrote in a note to clients this week that Musk told him about speaking recently with Putin. Bremmer said that conversation came before Musk posted his tweets urging Ukraine to find a negotiated solution to the war. Both Musk and the Kremlin subseqently denied that he had spoken with Putin this year.