Elon Musk at SpaceX launch

‘The hell with it’: Musk’s Starlink continues with internet for Ukraine

Image credit: REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

Starlink is expected to continue providing internet services in Ukraine, while its founder Elon Musk has been revealed to be under federal investigation over his protracted $44bn acquisition of Twitter.

Elon Musk has announced his rocket firm SpaceX will continue funding its Starlink internet service in Ukraine, a day after he said it could no longer afford to do so.

Over the weekend it was revealed that the billionaire had made a request in September to the US Defence Department to take over funding for his satellite network, which has provided crucial battlefield communications for Ukrainian military forces since the beginning of the war with Russia.

Musk suggested that his company could no longer continue to fund the service "indefinitely", which he said costs $20m (£18m) per month to maintain. In addition to the terminals, he tweeted that the company has to create, launch, maintain and replenish satellites and ground stations, as well as defend against cyber attacks. 

The news sparked significant criticism and today (Monday) he announced his change of mind. 

"The hell with it... Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we'll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free," Musk tweeted.

Starlink consists of over 3,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit and ground terminals and its internet service has played a vital role in Ukraine’s defence. 

A senior military official on Friday made it clear that the US believes the system has proved exceptionally effective on the battlefield. The service has assisted front-line reconnaissance drone operators in targeting artillery strikes on key Russian assets, among other missions. 

“Let’s be honest. Like it or not, @elonmusk helped us survive the most critical moments of war. Business has the right to its own strategies,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak said. 

“We expect that the company will provide stable connection till the end of negotiations.”

SpaceX has donated about 25,000 ground terminals to Ukraine, according to an updated figure given by Musk last week. Some people have complained that the company’s donation is a small portion of the actual count of Starlink terminals in use in the country, most of which are bought and paid for at market rates.

“I admire the actions of SpaceX of enabling Starlink service in Ukraine. It is a true game-changer for Ukrainian army in the open fields of no cellular, and long distances not suitable for radios, given the situation is changing quick on the battlefield,” wrote Dimko Zhluktenko, the founder of the Ukrainian military charity Dzyga’s Paw.

“Despite that, I have not seen any Starlink which was bought by the governments, or by SpaceX. All the Starlinks I have seen/used were bought either by volunteers like myself, or soldiers put their personal money in. The subscription price is also paid out of pocket.”

In response, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said the Pentagon was working with the Ukrainian Defence Ministry. “We know that there is this demand and (satellite communications) capability is needed and we want to be able to ensure that there are stable communications for the Ukrainian forces and for Ukraine.”

In addition to the controversy surrounding Musk's statements about the Ukraine war, the world's richest man is also the subject of a federal investigation related to his $44bn (£38.3bn) offer to buy Twitter - the second offer this year. 

The news came from a court filing made public last week about the latest developments in the ongoing legal disputes between the billionaire and the social network.

The filing did not specify the focus of the investigation, although it could be related to the billionaire's refusal to hand over necessary documents including those related to Musk's communications with federal authorities, claiming "investigative privilege". 

In its filing, Twitter wrote: "This game of 'hide the ball' must end". 

The court request was filed on the same day the court granted a stay of litigation to allow Twitter and Musk to close the takeover deal.

The announcement is the latest twist in a long-running saga after Musk announced his intention to buy Twitter in April 2022, only to place the deal “on hold” the following month, stating that the acquisition could not go forward until the company provided information about how many accounts on the platform are spam or bots.

In response, Twitter filed its lawsuit against the billionaire in Delaware court in June, with the goal of forcing him to either complete the deal and buy the company or pay a substantial sum for breach of contract. 

Earlier this month, Musk made a second offer to acquire the company for the original price.

In related news today, it has been announced that Kanye West (who has now legally changed his name to ‘Ye’) is in talks to buy the right-leaning niche social media platform Parler.

The mooted acquisition possibly stems from West’s indignation at the suspension of West’s personal accounts on both Twitter and Instagram, following some factually dubious and highly questionable comments he made in recent posts, which violated both company’s policies.

Commenting on West’s prospective purchase of the Parler platform, its chief executive George Farmer said: “This deal will change the world and change the way the world thinks about free speech. Ye is making a ground-breaking move into the free speech media space and will never have to fear being removed from social media again.”

Parler is typically described as a social networking service associated with Donald Trump supporters, conservatives, conspiracy theorists and far-right extremists.

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