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Musk suggests openness to continue funding access to Starlink in Ukraine

Elon Musk indicated on Saturday that he can continue to fund the Starlink satellite service, which supplies Ukraine and its military with internet, raising the prospect of coming back from his earlier threat to stop paying for the emergency network.

Just a day ago, Musk said it was “unreasonable” to propose that his company, SpaceX, continue to expand, support and fund the data-intensive system “indefinitely”. His comment sparked widespread condemnation, though Musk continued to argue behind the scenes for the Pentagon to shoulder the charges.

Musk returned to Twitter on Saturday, providing no update on those talks with the Department of Defense — and neither the tech mogul nor the government responded to requests for comment. But Musk, the world’s richest man, recently made an open, albeit sarcastic, comment about preserving Starlink funding.

“The hell with it… even though Starlink is still losing money and other companies are getting billions of taxpayers, we will just continue to fund the Ukrainian government for free,” he said. tweeted.

When a Silicon Valley investor later responded by citing the aphorism that “no good deed goes unpunished,” Musk tweeted, “Yet we must still do good deeds.”

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The exchange marked the latest twist in a confusing geopolitical saga that has unfolded over Twitter, the company Musk hopes to buy again. For Ukraine, the stakes are staggering: the satellite service provided by Starlink is now a primary mode of online communication in the country, a result of Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine’s online infrastructure. A satellite shutdown could cripple the Ukrainian military and give the Kremlin a major advantage.

Musk, for his part, has increasingly entered the conflict in public ways. Earlier this month, the billionaire presented what he described as a peace plan that critics viewed as highly favorable to Russia, angering Ukrainian political leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Andrij Melnyk, the country’s ambassador to Germany, later responded to Musk’s proposal in more explicit terms: tweeted.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said on Oct. 14 that SpaceX has asked the Pentagon to help fund the critical communications network in Ukraine. (Video: Reuters)

With high tensions, Musk then tweeted Friday his concerns about the price of providing Starlink service. He before said that it had so far cost SpaceX about $80 million to send satellite internet to the war-torn country, a figure that could reach $100 million by the end of the year as the company expands its footprint and secures its infrastructure against further Russian invasions.

In doing so, Musk snapped back too — again, through social media — at Melnyk: “We’re just following his recommendation,” he tweeted.

Behind the scenes, Defense Department officials said they were actively in talks with Musk

Musk threatens to stop funding Starlink internet Ukraine relies on in war

about maintaining the system. Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokeswoman, also told reporters that the US government had other options in the event of a disruption.

The Biden administration has played an unclear role in orchestrating the settlement, as documents previously obtained by The Washington Post suggest that another part of the administration — the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID — may have assisted in paying some of the Starlink terminals that are in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, an adviser to Zelensky in Ukraine said on Friday that Starlink had “helped us survive the most critical moments of war.” The assistant, Mykhailo Podolyak, added that Ukraine would “find a solution to keep Starlink working”, although the government expects Starlink to “provide a stable connection until the end of the negotiations.”

Isabelle Khurshudyan, Kostiantyn Khudov, Dan Lamothe and Ellen Francis contributed to this report.

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