Washington: In his latest spat with Kyiv, Elon Musk has said his rocket firm SpaceX cannot continue indefinitely paying for Ukraine’s Starlink internet service.
In February, the world’s richest man activated his company’s satellite internet system in Ukraine to keep its military and people online.
The programme costs $20 million per month to maintain, according to Musk. He has said SpaceX had spent $80 million so far to keep Ukraine online.
But in September, the Tesla owner asked the Pentagon to fund the programme, according to US media. He also recently provoked Kyiv’s ire by suggesting it cede territory.
Earlier in October, Musk tweeted out a proposal that Ukraine accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea and allow referendums in Ukrainian regions invaded by Moscow. The Kremlin responded positively to the overture.
But Ukraine’s outgoing ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, posted a tweet telling Musk to go away, using a swear word. Responding on Friday to a post referring to the ambassador’s remark, Musk said: “We’re just following his recommendation.”
“SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely,” Musk tweeted on Friday, referring to his space company that makes the Starlink system.
Starlink works by providing broadband internet through a network of satellites. It has proven vital for Ukraine’s military as it fights to retake Ukrainian land from Russia, the BBC reported.
Ukraine credited Starlink this week with helping to reboot its infrastructure in key areas following more than 100 Russian missile strikes.
Musk also tweeted that in addition to terminals, “we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations. “We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder.”
Ukraine’s vice-Prime Minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, downplayed tensions with Musk, writing on Twitter that the billionaire “is among the world’s top private donors supporting Ukraine”. “Starlink is an essential element of our critical infrastructure,” he wrote.
A Ukrainian presidential advisor said that Ukraine will find a solution to keep Starlink working, the BBC reported.