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Black market Starlink terminals in use by Russian forces in Ukraine, other US foes, Musk claims no knowledge

Just weeks after Ukrainian forces first alleged that Russia may have hijacked and hacked into their Starlink network and may be using it to attack Ukrainian forces, a new report claims that Russia was able to set up their own Starlink system on their own, using terminals that they bought from the black market and possibly from the dark web.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Starlink satellite internet terminals, developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, are being used by Russian forces for coordinating attacks in eastern Ukraine and parts of Crimea. The terminals are also allegedly deployed on the battlefield to manage drones and other military equipment.

Despite being banned in Russia because of US-imposed sanctions, these terminals are reaching Russian forces through a clandestine network of black market sellers. Some sellers even provide guarantees of delivering these terminals to the frontlines. These sellers have even managed to buy these terminals from eBay.

It is not just Ukraine where Starlink’s terminals have popped up. The black market for Starlink terminals extends to Sudan, where Sudanese dealers reportedly resell units to the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group accused of various atrocities. The WSJ report claimed that hundreds of Starlink terminals have made their way to members of this group.

When Ukrainian soldiers claimed that the Russians were using Starlink to coordinate attacks on Ukrainian units, Elon Musk took to Twitter, arguing that, to the best of his knowledge, no Starlinks had been sold to Russia.

The Kremlin also responded to these claims, saying that it had no access to Starlink’s network. Russia, however, has been requesting Musk provide it with Starlink’s terminals and access to the network.

House Democrats have urged Musk to take action, suggesting that the Russian military’s use of the technology violates US sanctions and export controls.

Musk and Starlink can turn off individual terminals, and each unit includes geofencing technology to prevent unauthorized use in certain countries.

Musk had previously restricted Ukraine’s use of Starlink, claiming the terminals were not intended for military conflicts. He blocked Ukraine’s use near Crimea, which disrupted plans for an attack on Russia’s naval fleet.

However, Ukraine’s advisor criticized Musk for this decision, blaming it for civilian casualties.

Musk countered, stating Starlink was never operational near Crimea and the policy was implemented before Ukraine’s planned attack.

This begs the question of why terminals actively being used by forces we have sanctioned haven’t been blocked and disabled. However, it should be clear that there is no way to tell if the black market sellers have found a way to bypass these measures.

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