Ukraine Trusts Musk’s Starlink But Wants More Suppliers, Deputy Prime Minister Says

Ukraine is counting on Elon Musk to continue providing internet through his SpaceX rocket company’s Starlink satellite system despite last month’s instability, but is also looking for other suppliers, one of its deputy prime ministers said Thursday.

Mykhailo Fedorov, in Portugal at the largest technology conference in Europe, the Lisbon Web Summit, said that Ukraine discussed Starlink directly with Musk and hoped that Tesla and the Twitter manager would not block the service in Ukraine.

Starlink “has worked, is working and will definitely work in Ukraine”, Federov, head of the digital transformation department in Ukraine, told a news conference in response to a question about the Reuters service.

“Elon Musk spoke publicly about this and we had a conversation with him about it, so we don’t see a problem with this,” said Fedorov.

SpaceX opened Starlink over Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February and has since provided Kyiv with thousands of terminals, allowing Ukrainians to connect to the Internet in areas inaccessible to the home telecommunications system. The links are used by both civilians and the Ukrainian military.

Last month Musk tweeted that SpaceX would no longer be able to provide service to Ukraine permanently – but backtracked two days later saying it would continue to do so as an example of “good deeds”.

At the same time, some Ukrainians complained about Internet service outages near the front lines, while Musk angered Ukrainian officials by promoting a peace plan in which Ukraine would cede some territory to Russia.

Fedorov said the Russian attack that destroyed 40 percent of Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure in October increased the importance of maintaining communications systems.

“One of the reasons why I came to the Web Summit is to look at my new colleagues and continue to develop and communicate with my new colleagues,” he said.

“Communication is very important,” he said. “We are working on this issue 24 hours a day. Russia is hitting the electricity infrastructure and sometimes we don’t have light at home for eight hours.”

Fedorov spoke at a joint press conference with Microsoft President Brad Smith, who announced about 100 million dollars of additional technical assistance to Ukraine throughout the year 2023.

“This will enable the government and other organizations of Ukraine to continue to provide their services and serve the citizens of Ukraine through the Microsoft Cloud and our public data centers spread across Europe,” said Smith.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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