Ukrainian forces have reported outages of their Starlink communications, in what could be a potential setback in the country's push to liberate parts of the country from Russian forces.
The Financial Times first reported the outages, with these outages leading to a "catastrophic" loss of communications in recent weeks, per one senior Ukrainian government official, the FT revealed.
Starlink, which is a subsidiary of Elon Musk's SpaceX, has supported Ukraine's efforts since its conflict with Russia began in late February.
Musk has provided thousands of Starlink terminals to Ukrainians on the frontline that have been made by SpaceX, and has been supported by the US government to provide this equipment to Ukraine's troops to operate drones and receive vital intelligence reports.
Documents earlier this year, as seen by The Washington Post show that USAID purchased around 1,500 Starlink terminals at $1,500 apiece, and spent $800,000 for transportation, adding up to over $3 million in public funds. It later bought another 175 units. During the first three months of the invasion, SpaceX said it sent over 15,000 Starlink kits to Ukraine.
USAID also paid for the shipping of nearly 3,700 terminals, which were likely donated by SpaceX. The French government also covered the cost of delivering 200 Starlink kits, while Poland is believed to have helped with some deliveries.
According to the FT, the outages in recent weeks have occurred in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, plus Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk noted the government official. All four regions have recently been claimed as Russian by President Vladimir Putin, following referendums.
Another Kyiv official has called the outages "widespread" and has prompted panicked calls to helplines from Ukrainian soldiers. The problems have happened since Ukraine liberated territory from Russia, and moved past the frontline.
Earlier this year Musk reported that Starlink's equipment faced jamming issues in Ukraine.
Roman Sinicyn, a co-ordinator at a foundation that donates Starlink systems to the Ukrainian armed forces, told FT the issue could be caused by SpaceX representatives that are looking to ensure Russian soldiers can't use the technology, with the liberation of some areas not being made public yet at the time of the connectivity issues.
"It is absolutely clear to me that this is being done by representatives of Starlink to prevent the usage of their technology by Russian occupation forces," Sinicyn told the FT.
Musk recently caused anger in Ukraine with his suggestion of a ceasefire that would result in Ukraine giving up some of its territories to Russia, in a Tweet last week.
Although SpaceX hasn't officially commented on the reports from Ukraine regarding the outages, Musk said on Twitter that the operation has so far cost SpaceX $80m and will exceed $100m by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, Musk has claimed that Beijing is not keen on rolling out its Starlink satellites in China. Musk claims that Beijing has disapproved of SpaceX's rollout of Starlink satellites to Ukraine.
Starlink's satellite services are currently sold in over 40 countries, but the Chinese market remains absent, with SpaceX showing no signs of applying for an operating license in the country, according to Chinese state media.
Internet in China is heavily censored and is only accessible through state-owned providers.
More in Connectivity
Conference Session Networks & Connectivity Welcome Lunch Briefing