Ukraine war: Backlash after Elon Musk says he can no longer fund Starlink satellites

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By Sophia Khatsenkova
Elon Musk angered many on social media for wanting to cut funding for his Starlink satellites in Ukraine
Elon Musk angered many on social media for wanting to cut funding for his Starlink satellites in Ukraine   -   Copyright  Carina Johansen/AP/NORWAY OUT

Elon Musk is again under fire. 

This time it is because he threatened to cut off financial support for Starlink in Ukraine on Friday.

These internet terminals -- produced by Musk’s SpaceX company -- are vital for the communication of Kyiv's army on the battlefield and also for civilians to keep in touch with their loved ones amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

About 25,000 units have been sent to Ukraine to date. But Musk tweeted on Friday the “operation has cost SpaceX 80 million dollars and will exceed 100 million by the end of the year.”

He warned the space company could "not continue to find the existing system indefinitely and send thousands of additional terminals ... it is unreasonable". 

On Thursday, CNN released documents showing that SpaceX has asked the US government to help fund the technology, which could cost an estimated $400 million over the next year. 

Elon Musk angered many on Twitter on Friday when he explained that in asking the Pentagon to foot the bill, he was simply following the advice of a Ukrainian diplomat, Andrij Melnyk.

A few days before, Musk published a poll on Twitter proposing his solution to end the war in Ukraine. One of the points included that Kyiv give up some of its territory to Russia, causing widespread criticism. 

This led to backlash on social media with Andrij Melnyk tweeting at Elon Musk: "F*** off is my very diplomatic reply to you."

A Pentagon spokeswoman confirmed on Friday that the US Ministry of Defense had received a letter from SpaceX about Starlink funding, adding it is "in contact" with SpaceX and others. 

Another US official said the device had been "very important" for the Ukrainian government and military to "coordinate planning and operations" since the war began in February. 

Around 15% of Ukraine's internet infrastructure has been destroyed or damaged in the conflict, according to Ukrainian authorities. 

Friday's announcement about possible cutting funds for Starlink comes amid public controversy on Musk's stance towards Ukraine. 

There have been recent reports of Starlink outages as Ukrainian troops attempt to retake ground occupied by Russia. 

Former Ukrainian defence minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk told the Financial Times "that he hoped Musk did not render the devices ineffective in certain areas", sparking further suspicions amid social media users. 

On Tuesday, Musk rebuffed allegations that he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

There have been reports that Musk claimed Ukraine does not want peace negotiations but that Russia would be willing to accept them during a closed-door meeting last month.

Euronews cannot independently verify these claims.