Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX, is providing satellite internet access to Ukraine after a plea from the country’s vice prime minister that communications were being knocked out by Russia.
The tech entrepreneur has launched more than 2,000 Starlink satellites, designed to bring the internet to hard-to-reach places around the world, and announced on Saturday evening that the service is now active in Ukraine.
The move came after a plea from Ukraine’s vice prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov.
“Elon Musk, while you try to colonise Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people!” he tweeted.
Within 10 hours, Mr Musk replied: “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.”
Internet connectivity in Ukraine has been affected by the Russian invasion, particularly in the southern and eastern parts of the country where fighting has been heaviest, internet monitors said on Saturday.
While extremely costly to deploy, satellite technology can provide internet for people who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fibre optic cables and cell towers do not reach. The technology can also be a critical backstop when hurricanes or other natural disasters disrupt communication.
In response to Mr Musk’s actions, Mr Fedorov said: “Starlink terminals are coming to Ukraine! Thank you Elon Musk, thank you everyone, who supported Ukraine!”
SpaceX has already launched 2,000 Starlink satellites and has permission from US authorities to send up 12,000 in total.