Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak says Ukraine will find a solution to keep the Starlink Internet service working after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said his company could not indefinitely fund it.
Podolyak wrote on Twitter on October 14 that, like it or not, Musk “helped us survive the most critical moments of war.”
He told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service that Ukraine should be thankful and also acknowledged that Musk is a businessman running a private business, not a state business, and “his business development strategy says that it is not profitable for him to lose [money].”
That’s why Ukraine “will take care of how to conduct negotiations so that Starlink works,” but added in his tweet that Ukraine expects the company to provide stable connections until the end of negotiations.
Musk activated Starlink, a network of more than 2,000 satellites orbiting the Earth and thousands of terminals on the ground, in late February after Internet services were disrupted because of Russia’s invasion.
Podolyak made the statement after Musk tweeted that SpaceX cannot fund the network “indefinitely” amid reports that he has asked the Pentagon to step in.
Starlink has cost SpaceX $80 million thus far and the cost will exceed $100 million by end of year, Musk said on Twitter on October 7.
Musk also asked whether the United States owes protection to a commercial vendor that is targeted while assisting the United States.
“We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder,” said the billionaire, who is also CEO of Tesla.
CNN reported on October 13 that SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon last month saying it could not continue to fund the Starlink service in Ukraine and that it may have to stop funding it unless the U.S. military gives the company tens of millions of dollars a month.
An official who spoke on the condition of anonymity was quoted on October 14 by AP as saying the Defense Department has received a request from Musk to take over funding for the satellite network. The official said the issue has been discussed in meetings and senior leaders are weighing the matter.
A senior defense official later told reporters that the Defense Department would not confirm that ongoing talks were related to payment. But the official said the Pentagon was “continuing to talk to SpaceX and other companies about SATCOM capabilities.”
The discussion about Starlink comes after Musk came under criticism for asking his 107 million Twitter followers to weigh in on his proposal to end the war in Ukraine under which Ukraine would cede Crimea, which it seized in 2014.
Musk also suggested that four regions Russia illegally annexed following Kremlin-orchestrated referendums should hold repeat votes under UN supervision and Ukraine should adopt a neutral status, dropping a bid to join NATO.
As part of his proposal, Musk launched a Twitter poll asking whether “the will of the people” should decide if seized regions remain part of Ukraine or become part of Russia.
That prompted President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has pledged to recover all the territory captured by Russia in the war and reclaim Crimea, to post his own poll asking his followers which Musk they like more: “One who supports Ukraine” or “One who supports Russia”?
Musk replied to Zelenskiy that he “still very much” supports Ukraine but is “convinced that massive escalation of the war will cause great harm to Ukraine and possibly the world.”