Book: Musk Blocked Drone Attack by Ukraine

Walter Isaacson reveals SpaceX CEO's role in turning off Starlink network near Crimea in 2022
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2023 8:43 AM CDT
Book: Musk Cut Off Comms as Ukraine Went on the Attack
Elon is seen March 9, 2020, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Earlier this year, SpaceX execs acknowledged that they blocked Ukrainian forces from using Starlink communications systems for military purposes in the war against Russia. Now, CNN reports that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk personally had his engineers cut off power last year—the exact date isn't clear—to a Starlink network near Crimea, in order to ensure that Ukraine couldn't attack Russia's warships. That revelation comes in Elon Musk, a new biography from former Time editor Walter Isaacson, who writes that the Ukrainian submarine drones "lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly" after Musk's order went through.

His demand to shut off connectivity left Ukraine "begging him to turn the satellites back on," but Musk told Isaacson he feared nuclear war would be the result if he did so, like a "mini-Pearl Harbor." Musk had originally provided Starlink internet service to Ukraine in the early days of the war, after much of its communications system had been knocked out by Russia, but he apparently had a change of heart once Ukraine took more of an offensive stance. "How am I in this war?" Musk said to Isaacson. "Starlink was not meant to be involved in wars. It was so people can watch Netflix and chill and get online for school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes."

The Washington Post notes eventually Musk restored service, after pleas from Ukrainian and US officials. The Guardian acknowledges previous reporting on Musk's warnings to disrupt Starlink communications in Ukraine, but it adds that "this is the first time it has been alleged he cut off Ukrainian forces in the middle of a specific operation." That paper also cites a study published last week by the European Commission that showed Musk's Twitter (the platform now known as X) played a significant part in spreading Russian propaganda about its invasion of Ukraine.

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None of this news is thrilling Ukraine. "By not allowing Ukrainian drones to destroy part of the Russian military (!) fleet via #Starlink interference, @elonmusk allowed this fleet to fire Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities," Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeted, per CNBC. "As a result, civilians, children are being killed. This is the price of a cocktail of ignorance and big ego." Elon Musk is due out Tuesday from Simon & Schuster. (Ronan Farrow recently wrote about Musk's "shadow rule.")

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