Musk goes back and says he will continue to finance the internet in Ukraine

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk announced on Saturday that he would continue to fund the Starlink internet network in Ukraine, backtracking from the previous day’s statements, when he asked the US government to take over the task.

“Never mind,” tweeted the richest man in the world. “Although Starlink is still losing money and other companies are receiving billions of taxpayer dollars, we will continue to fund the Ukrainian government for free.”

Musk had said on Friday that SpaceX could not afford Starlink in Ukraine indefinitely.

The US military has confirmed that it is in contact with the billionaire’s company for key network funding.

The talks come as Musk finds himself embroiled in public exchanges with Ukrainian leaders, who have been angered by the tycoon’s controversial proposals to resolve the conflict, which included recognizing Russian sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula.

Starlink, a constellation of more than 3,000 small satellites in low Earth orbit, has been vital to Ukraine’s communications in its fight against the Russian invasion of its territory.

SpaceX has donated about 25,000 ground terminals to Ukraine, according to an updated number provided by Musk last week.

– Round trip –

On Friday, the controversial businessman warned that the space company “(couldn’t) continue funding the existing system indefinitely and shipping thousands of additional terminals (…) It’s unreasonable.”

According to the billionaire, aid to Ukraine has already cost the company US$80 million, a bill that is expected to reach US$100 million by the end of the year.

Musk assures that, except for a “small percentage”, all costs of deployment and maintenance of Starlink terminals in Ukraine were borne by SpaceX.

However, broadcaster CNN reported that SpaceX figures shared with the Pentagon show that about 85% of the first 20,000 terminals in Ukraine were partially paid for by countries such as the United States, Poland or other entities, which also paid for about 30%. of internet connectivity.

Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said Friday that the US Department of Defense is in contact with Musk on the funding issue.

Musk recently clashed with Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, after suggesting a peace deal that would involve holding controversial new referendums in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories, an idea welcomed by Moscow.

Kiev’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, opined on Twitter, telling Musk to “screw it”.

In a tweet on Friday that included a ‘shrugging’ emoji in a clear sign of mockery, Musk said: “We’re just following your recommendation.”

“Like it or not, @elonmusk helped us survive the most critical moments of the war,” tweeted Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak.

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© Agence France-Presse

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