Elon Musk has said he will continue to fund the Starlink mobile internet system in Ukraine for free “indefinitely” following discussions with the Pentagon.
The billionaire entrepreneur had complained this week that the service was costing his private space company SpaceX “approaching $20mn a month” and had written to the defence department requesting financial support.
The Pentagon on Friday confirmed that it had been discussing payments with Musk’s company to ensure connectivity for Ukrainian forces, adding that it was also exploring alternatives.
But in a sudden about turn on Saturday, Musk wrote on Twitter: “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.”
When contacted by the Financial Times, Musk confirmed that he would keep paying for the service in Ukraine “indefinitely”.
Musk won acclaim earlier this year after intervening to bring internet services to Ukraine during the Russian invasion. However, he became embroiled in a spat with Ukrainian leaders last week after calling publicly for a negotiated settlement to end the war in the country, which would include allowing Russia to keep Crimea.
In response to a tweet quoting a Ukrainian diplomat who told Musk last week to “fuck off” following his proposed peace settlement, the US-based entrepreneur appeared to threaten to pull the service in the country, writing earlier this week: “We’re just following his recommendation”.
Musk had complained that his company was spending millions to “create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations & pay telcos for access to internet via gateways.” He added that the company had also “had to defend against cyber attacks & jamming, which are getting harder.”
On Saturday, he responded to a comment on Twitter saying that “no good deed goes unpunished”, writing: “Even so, we should still do good deeds”.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the news.
The Financial Times previously revealed that some Starlink terminals used by Ukraine’s military had stopped working in areas recently liberated from Russian occupation, raising questions about whether the company was blocking the service to some parts of the front lines.
Additional reporting by Felicia Schwartz