Elon Musk to provide ‘free’ Starlink internet services in Ukraine amid fierce criticism

Days after SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who has been providing war-torn Ukraine with Tesla’s Powerwall energy-saving systems and Starlink satellite internet terminals and urging the Pentagon to fund the connectivity services, made a U-turn and promised free digital assistance to the war-torn nation .

“To hell with that…even though Starlink is still losing money and other companies are getting billions in taxpayers’ money, we’re just going to keep funding the Ukrainian government for free,” he tweeted.

Image: Twitter/@enlonmusk

Musk-owned Starlink, in particular, has been offering broadband internet services since the Russian regime launched a full-blown war against Ukraine. It uses more than 2,200 low-orbit satellites and has provided vital battlefield communications for Ukraine’s armed forces since the conflict began in February this year. However, a report from CNN revealed that Musk’s company sent a letter to the Pentagon claiming that the company was unable to fund the Starlink service as it is. In addition, in the letter, the entrepreneur categorically asked the Pentagon to provide funding for the Ukrainian government and military use of Starlink.

The report caused major uproar and chaos on social media platforms, where netizens called on Musk to continue providing internet connections to the already war-ravaged nation. He even had an uphill battle on Twitter, where he faced immense criticism from top Ukrainian officials for his pro-Russian proposals. Responding to Musk’s peace plan, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk said, “F*** off is my very diplomatic response to you @elonmusk.” In a response, the world’s richest man sarcastically said, “We’re just following his advice.”

Image: Twitter/@enlonmusk

Cost of Starlink operation in Ukraine

According to Musk’s earlier tweet, Starlink SpaceX will cost $80 million to operate, adding that the cost will surpass $100 million by the end of the year. Also, the spacecraft manufacturer claims the operation would cost more than $120 million for the rest of the year and could cost nearly $400 million over the next 12 months. “We are not in a position to donate more terminals to Ukraine or fund the existing terminals indefinitely,” CNN quoted SpaceX’s director of government sales in the September letter to the Pentagon.

Who actually bears the costs for the Starlink satellite operation in Ukraine?

It’s important to note that Musk has received awards around the world for providing “free internet services to Ukraine.” However, it was later revealed that about 85 percent of Ukraine’s 20,000 terminals were paid – or partially paid – by countries like the US and Poland or other entities. Citing the newly obtained documents, the report claimed among contributors that the largest single contributor of terminals was Poland, with payments for nearly 9,000 individual terminals.

Image: AP/Twitter/@SpaceX