As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to rage on, the war is being fought on multiple fronts — and one of these fronts is the internet. Russian forces have severely disrupted internet functionality in Ukraine, and there are legitimate concerns about the country (or large parts of the country) being essentially severed from the internet.
In desperation, Ukrainian First Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted to Elon Musk for help with his Starlink fleet.
Remarkably, it worked. Within hours, Musk replied: “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.”
Fedorov tweeted his thanks to the billionaire, with the country’s official Twitter account @Ukraine also acknowledging Musk’s actions, tweeting “Thanx [sic], appreciate it”.
While costly to deploy, satellite technology can provide a much-needed internet source for people who live in remote, rural, or disrupted areas. The technology could also serve as a backup in the case of a natural or man-made disaster — which is exactly the case in Ukraine right now.
Starlink satellites are able to provide broadband Internet connections from space, and having the satellites deployed above Ukraine means parts of the country may enjoy internet connectivity without the risk of Russian interference.
This does not mean Starlink internet is live for all of Ukraine. The move can only provide internet to those with Starlink’s special receivers — these are the “terminals” Musk was referring to.
We could not verify how many such terminals are in Ukraine right now or how many more are “en route”. This remains a key question, and it is unclear whether Starlink can make a significant amount of terminals available to Ukraine on such short notice.
Without too many terminals, this is quite possibly a symbolic move rather than one that will make a major difference, but with Ukrainians with their backs against the wall, it could at least make a difference for some people.
Meanwhile, the situation of embattled Ukraine remains critical, and having Internet connectivity and ensuring vital communication is quite possibly crucial for the fate of the country.