Ukraine Envoy Hopeful About Fate of Musk's Satellite Network

It's working, but for how long?

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer media award in Berlin on Dec. 1, 2020.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer media award in Berlin on Dec. 1, 2020.
Hannibal Hanschke/Pool Photo via AP, File

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Ukrainian diplomat expressed optimism Sunday about securing the money needed for the continued operation of a satellite network funded by billionaire Elon Musk that has provided key battlefield and humanitarian contacts in the war with Russia.

"It's there, it's working," said the envoy, Oksana Markarova. "It will need to be working for a longer time."

She did not indicate whether Musk had agreed to continue funding his rocket company SpaceX's Starlink internet service in Ukraine but said the country's collaboration with the company has been excellent.

"We got the Starlinks in Ukraine very quickly, in some areas for humanitarian support, it's the only connection that we have," Markarova told CBS' "Face the Nation." "And it's very important to continue having it and I'm positive that we will find a solution there."

On Friday, senior U.S. officials confirmed that Musk had asked the Defense Department to take over funding for the service Starlink provides in Ukraine. Starlink, which provides broadband internet service using more than 2,200 low-orbiting satellites, has provided crucial battlefield communications for Ukrainian military forces since early in the nation's defense against Russia's February invasion.

Musk suggested in a tweet Saturday that SpaceX may continue funding Starlink after all, though his tone and wording also raised the possibility that the Tesla CEO was just being sarcastic. It is not clear whether SpaceX has actually established future plans for service in Ukraine.

"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 Saturday.

Musk also recently has sparred with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after the billionaire suggested that Ukraine cede the strategically important Crimea region to Russia and make other concessions as part of a peace deal, drawing a rebuke from Zelenskyy.

Musk tweeted on Friday that it was costing SpaceX $20 million a month to support Ukraine's communications needs.

Markarova said Ukraine has "disagreed with Elon Musk on some of his views about Crimea, and we were happy to discuss it with him." She added that Ukraine is proud "to be one of the fastest growing Starlink countries globally."

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