NewsHouse Oversight probes SpaceX on Starlink use by Russian military

House Oversight probes SpaceX on Starlink use by Russian military

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have launched an investigation into the company SpaceX.
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have launched an investigation into the company SpaceX.
Images source: © AKPA

12:36 AM EST, March 8, 2024

The newspaper provided details that Jamie Raskin and Robert Garcia, in a letter addressed to Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president, are inquiring about allegations concerning the possibly illegal acquisition of Starlink satellite communication system terminals, including those in territories occupied by Russia in Ukraine. These concerns were sparked by recent troubling reports from the Ukrainian armed forces and special services regarding this issue.

In their correspondence, the congressmen highlighted their apprehension that Russia's use of the SpaceX system "poses a serious threat to the security of Ukraine, the lives of its citizens, and the national security of the USA". They also raised questions about the company's security protocols and adherence to US sanctions and export control regulations.

It was also unveiled in the letter that in June of the previous year, the Pentagon purchased between 400 to 500 Starlink terminals for Ukraine. This acquisition was in addition to the thousands of terminals the Ukrainian forces had already received, including those from Poland.

Are Russians utilizing Starlinks?

The Starlink system was envisioned as a pivotal asset for Ukrainian forces, providing a stable internet connection, facilitating communication between soldiers, and enabling the use of drones.

The congressmen voiced their worry that now Russian soldiers might be benefitting from the same advantages. They expressed concern over SpaceX, led by billionaire Elon Musk, not implementing adequate security measures to prevent Russians from obtaining the system. Ukrainian military intelligence has provided information that Russians are "systematically" utilizing Starlinks and have acquired thousands of receivers.

Musk refutes the accusations

While Musk and Shotwell have not yet replied to the letter from the congressmen, the South African billionaire has previously denied any sales of terminals to Russians.

"This is categorically false. To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia," he stated in February.

However, there are suspicions from Ukrainians that Russia might have procured the terminals unlawfully, by dodging sanctions through purchases via intermediaries in neighboring countries. The congressmen have queried what steps the company has undertaken to halt such practices.

The involvement of SpaceX and Elon Musk in the context of the Ukraine conflict has been a cause of concern previously as well. "The Wall Street Journal" reported last year that some Pentagon officials were wary of Musk's interactions with Vladimir Putin and statements that seemed to echo the Russian narrative of the conflict. When questioned about Musk last year, President Joe Biden mentioned he would "look into" the matter.

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