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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

Ukraine's Starlink satellite internet service disrupted, tough time for soldiers

Without the full service, Ukrainian soldiers said, they couldn’t quickly communicate and share information about the surprise onslaught and resorted to sending text messages

Paul Mozur, Adam Satariano Kharkiv, Ukraine Published 25.05.24, 10:23 AM
Foreign journalists report from an observation point as smoke rises after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Friday

Foreign journalists report from an observation point as smoke rises after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Friday AP/PTI

Just before Russian troops pushed across the Ukrainian northern border this month, members of Ukraine’s 92nd Assault Brigade lost a vital resource. Starlink satellite internet service, which soldiers use to communicate, collect intelligence and conduct drone attacks, had slowed to a crawl.

Operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Starlink has been critical to the Ukrainian military since the earliest days of the war with Russia. Without the full service, Ukrainian soldiers said, they couldn’t quickly communicate and share information about the surprise onslaught and resorted to sending text messages. Their experiences were repeated across the new northern front line, according to Ukrainian soldiers, officials and electronics warfare experts.

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As Russian troops made gains this month near Kharkiv they deployed stronger electronic weapons and more sophisticated tools to degrade Starlink service, Ukrainian officials said. The advances pose a major threat to Ukraine, which has often managed to outmaneuver the Russian military with the help of front-line connectivity and other technology, but has been on the defensive against the renewed Russian advance.

The new outages appeared to be the first time the Russians have caused widespread disruptions of Starlink. If they continue to succeed, it could mark a tactical shift in the conflict, highlighting Ukraine’s vulnerability and dependence on the service provided by Musk’s company. As the US and other governments work with SpaceX, the disruptions raise broader questions about Starlink’s reliability against a technically sophisticated adversary.

New York Times News Service

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