Elon Musk denies blocking Starlink over Crimea due to fear of nuclear war

"All bets are off if the nukes start flying," Musk recently tweeted.
Chris Young
A Starlink satellite dish (left) and Elon Musk (right).
A Starlink satellite dish (left) and Elon Musk (right).

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Elon Musk reportedly rejected a request from within Ukraine to extend SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet coverage to Crimea, according to a newsletter from political analyst Ian Bremmer.

According to the newsletter, first reported by Vice, Musk also directly spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the potential for nuclear escalation in relation to Crimea.

However, Musk has taken to Twitter after those reports were published and has cast doubt on their veracity by claiming that "nobody should trust Bremmer".

Musk and Putin, Starlink and Crimea

Shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine started in late February, Musk and the U.S. government sent thousands of Starlink terminals to Kyiv to provide communications capabilities to civilians and armed forces after the country's infrastructure was specifically targeted by Russia.

Several outlets have speculated in recent months that SpaceX has disabled Starlink over Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine. As per Business Insider, some have suggested it may have been shut off over certain regions to prevent Russia from exploiting the network.

On Monday, Bremmer, who is the founder and president of the political-risk research firm Eurasia Group, appeared to confirm that speculation in his weekly newsletter. Bremmer wrote that, in a conversation with Musk in late September, the SpaceX and Tesla CEO said the satellite service was being intentionally disabled in some regions.

Bremmer explained that Musk mentioned he'd refused to activate Starlink in Crimea after a request from Ukraine's defense ministry. According to Bremmer, Musk "refused given the potential for escalation." Russia invaded and illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and a key bridge linking Russia to Crimea was recently the focus of an attack.

In his newsletter, Bremmer wrote that Musk said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the use of Starlink over Ukraine and that Putin had said he would use nuclear weapons if Ukraine tried to retake the Crimean peninsula.

Concerns over nuclear war escalation

Musk took to Twitter on Tuesday to deny he had had any conversation with Putin about the war situation. In one tweet, he wrote that he had "spoken to Putin only once [...] about 18 months ago" and the subject "was space."

Bremmer hit back on Twitter saying Musk "told me he had spoken with Putin and the Kremlin directly about Ukraine." Musk then tweeted a direct response to Bremmer's tweet stating that "nobody should trust Bremmer."

The worry over nuclear war still remains, and Musk has tweeted about it in recent weeks. On October 3, he posted a proposal on Twitter for de-escalation in which he suggested Crimea was always Russian and that recent referendums conducted by Russian forces in four occupied Ukrainian regions should be redone under UN supervision. The proposal was widely derided with many suggesting it equated to Ukraine bowing down to Russian demands.

On October 10, Musk tweeted "I have no desire to become involved in wars, but it is safe to say that all bets are off if the nukes start flying".

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