Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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Fact check: Did the Kremlin threaten to destroy Starlink satellites?

A comment in a Russian diplomatic note caused a stir on social media, with some observers saying it was a potential threat to US Starlink satellites.

Requirement

Since September 15, several Twitter users have hinted that Russia issued a veiled threat against Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites following a three-day meeting of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). previously.

Defense reporter Shashank Joshi retweeted an excerpt from the English translation of a statement by the Russian delegation to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA).

“Interesting statement from Russia on the use of satellites: ‘Quasi-civilian infrastructure can become a legitimate target for retaliation,'” Joshi wrote. “It is clear that Starlink has become an important part of Ukraine’s command, control and communications system in some parts of the country.”

Another Twitter user wrote that “Starlink is now a military target”, referring to the Russian UNODA statement.

Sharing Joshi’s tweet on the r/space subreddit in a post that had 11,000 upvotes at the time of writing, one redditor wrote, “Kremlin threatens to destroy Starlink satellites.”

facts

Russia’s statement at the September 12 UNODA meeting and its unofficial English translation can be found on the United Nations website.

The English translation includes the following quote: “We would like to highlight an extremely dangerous trend which goes beyond the innocuous use of space technologies and which has become evident during the events in Ukraine. Namely, the use by States United States and its allies of civil infrastructure, including commercial, in outer space for military purposes.

“It seems that our colleagues do not realize that such actions actually constitute indirect involvement in military conflicts. Quasi-civilian infrastructure can become a legitimate target of retaliation.”

Although Russia does not refer to Starlink by name in this paragraph, it is known that Starlink – the satellite communications network operated by Elon Musk’s US rocket company SpaceX – has been used in Ukraine to provide support both to civilians for Internet access and to the military for communication purposes.

Starlink has proven to be what Politico described as an “unexpected lifeline” for the country amid Russian efforts to install its own ISPs and cut Ukraine off from the outside world. It was also reportedly used to assist in airstrikes on Russian positions.

Moreover, last May, the former head of the Russian space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, accused Elon Musk of being “involved in supplying fascist forces in Ukraine with military communications”, and warned, via Twitter , that “for that, you’ll have to Respond in a grown-up way, Elon, no matter how crazy you play.”

According to Musk, Russia has already tried to harm the Starlink network. In May hey tweeted: “Starlink has so far resisted Russian cyber warfare jamming and hacking attempts, but they are stepping up their efforts.”

It’s possible to see why Russia might view Starlink as ‘quasi-civilian infrastructure’ involved in the military conflict in Ukraine and would be a target of retaliation, but the UNODA statement isn’t necessarily a direct threat. and does not refer to Starlink by name.

decision

Needs context.

Although Russia’s UNODA statement could be seen as a potential threat of future military action against Starlink, it was not the main part of the Russian statement. It did not pose a direct threat or specifically refer to Starlink, but instead represented a disposable paragraph in a diplomatic document.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK

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