Russia buying Starlink from ‘Arab countries’, Ukraine claims

Kyiv claims Russia is 'purchasing communications equipment, including Starlink satellite internet terminals, for use in the war'
Kyiv claims Russia is 'purchasing communications equipment, including Starlink satellite internet terminals, for use in the war' - STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Russian forces are acquiring Starlink terminals from “Arab countries” for use on the front line, according to the Ukrainian military.

On Tuesday, Kyiv’s military intelligence agency (HUR) released what it said was intercepted audio of two Russian soldiers discussing the purchase of the satellite internet units produced by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The agency wrote on Telegram: “The aggressor state, Russia, is purchasing communications equipment, including Starlink satellite internet terminals, for use in the war in Arab countries.”

Media outlets in Ukraine reported that Russian forces may have used intermediaries in Dubai to obtain the distinctive square-shaped satellite terminals.

The evidence published by HUR appears to be the first official confirmation of the methods used by Russians to circumvent swathes of Western sanctions preventing Moscow from obtaining technologies with military application.

In the audio clip released by the Ukrainian intelligence agency, two Russian soldiers are allegedly discussing their poor internet connections.

“Let me order you a Starlink? And you will have a f---ing good connection. Dude, do you need a Starlink,” one says.

The Russian soldier adds: “Then you need 200,000 rubles (£1,728). Do you know Oboz? You go up to him, and he’ll order it for you. The Arabs bring everything to us: wires, wifi, routers.”

The Telegraph could not independently verify the claims.

Last week, HUR released details appearing to confirm the use of Starlink terminals by Russian forces operating in occupied areas of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.

A pro-Russian volunteer group also shared what it said were boxed Starlink terminals and commercial Chinese-made drones earmarked for Putin’s forces fighting in Ukraine.

SpaceX, which owns Starlink, denied reports that it had sold equipment to the Russian government or military.

In response to the allegations, Mr Musk, the firm’s billionaire owner, wrote on X: “A number of false news reports claim that SpaceX is selling Starlink terminals to Russia. This is categorically false. To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia.”

Western officials have identified the UAE, which does not enforce sanctions on Russia, as one of the main hubs used by Moscow to evade the punitive measures.

The UK targeted businesses in Dubai in December last year as part of a crackdown on firms exploited by Russia for trade in oil, gold and other goods.

The US has also been steadily increasing its sanctions against Moscow by targeting individuals in the UAE, Turkey and China that are used to secure dual-use technologies for Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

Brussels is preparing to impose sanctions on three Chinese firms and one Indian company as part of the EU’s latest package of measures against Russia, expected to be announced on the second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.

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