At the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin tried with all his might to take control of the country’s internet. The satellite Internet Starlink prevented this – and became indispensable for Ukraine. The army is now threatened with the shutdown of many access points due to lack of money.

According to a report by “CNN”, around 1,300 Starlink terminals of the Ukrainian army have gone offline. The shutdown follows a series of reports of problems with funding for Elon Musk and his company SpaceX’s satellite-based Internet. In mid-October it became known that the Pentagon had already received demands in September to assume the costs of operating Starlink in Ukraine.

According to information from Elon Musk, around 25,000 Starlink terminals operate in Ukraine, each of which would be able to provide thousands of people with Internet access via a radio tower. In early October, Musk confirmed that Starlink offers “a distinct advantage on the battlefield.”

A few weeks ago, SpaceX wanted to bill $120 million for the rest of the year and $400 million for operations in the coming year. After days of back-and-forth, Elon Musk’s Twitter account finally said, “Fuck it…even if Starlink is still losing money and other companies are getting billions in taxpayers’ money, we’re going to keep funding Ukraine for free.”

US government must continue negotiations

Now the tide is apparently turning. Firstly, the Ministry of Defense confirmed to “CNN” that even after Elon Musk’s announcement, there had been negotiations about who would now bear the costs – and secondly, the terminals in question were switched off.

A senior Pentagon official said, “Negotiations are in full swing. Everyone in our building knows we’re going to pay for them.” Statements from Musk are wanted in writing, fearing that he could otherwise quickly change his mind.

The first failures on the Ukrainian front took place on October 24, reports “CNN”, citing local sources. The terminals that were switched off are 1,300 devices that were purchased by a British company in March and have been used for military operations since then.

High monthly costs for Ukraine

SpaceX asked for the operation of these vital connections 2500 US dollars per month per terminal. It is said that the total bill is now too high for the army. In early October, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine asked the British authorities to cover the monthly costs of 3.25 million US dollars – apparently without success. At least some of the terminals, according to the report, were already taken out of service in advance, so as not to have to contend with connection problems in the middle of an operation.

It remains unclear why the costs for the terminals are so high. Normally, Starlink Premium, i.e. the fastest stationary tariff, costs around 500 euros per month and currently a one-time fee of 2820 euros for the hardware. The only tariff that is also so expensive for end users is Starlink Maritim, the Internet connection for yachts and ships. Starlink charges $5,000 a month for this service and charges a one-time fee of $10,000 for the hardware.

Meanwhile, the discussion about financing the connection to Starlink is not the only problem that company boss Elon Musk seems to have with the operation in Ukraine. In October, the billionaire wrote increasingly that he wanted negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and drafted a controversial “peace plan” that gave Russia parts of the annexed territories. Musk was sharply criticized for this by both former Ambassador Andriy Melnyk and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Musk worried about the course of the war

According to US political scientist Ian Bremmer, Musk had previously spoken to Vladimir Putin, Musk denied having had any contact with the Russian President. At the same time, the richest person in the world warned again and again that the conflict in Ukraine could escalate worldwide if Western powers got too involved and cornered Russia.

In fact, both Russia and China have threatened to develop measures against satellite networks – including shooting down the missiles that governments with tight censorship limits could wrest power over the population’s digital communications.