When Russia first invaded Ukraine last year, Elon Musk made the splashy announcement that SpaceX would provide internet to the embattled country using its Starlink satellite internet system.
Ukraine's frontlines have even made use of the terminals to control drones for strikes, something that has drawn the attention of the international community.
Now, though, is cutting off the Ukrainian military's ability to control drones using the service, the BBC reports, leaving a sizable hole in its defenses.
"We know the military is using them for comms, and that's ok," SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said during a Wednesday conference. "But our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes."
"However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement," she said.
As a result, SpaceX has since decided to cut the Ukrainian military off.
"There are things that we can do to limit their ability to do that," she added, referring to using Starlink to control drones. "There are things that we can do, and have done."
Understandably, Ukrainian officials have reacted with outrage. Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, asked SpaceX if it was "on the side of the right to freedom" in a tweet, or "on the Russian Federation's side and its 'right' to kill and seize territories."
The space company has donated tens of thousands of Starlink terminals to the embattled country since Russia's invasion began, to the delight of Ukrainian officials.
But Musk later asked the Pentagon to pay for these terminals. SpaceX "cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households," Musk tweeted back in October. "This is unreasonable."
The company apparently later changed its mind, sending additional devices late last year.
Musk also threatened to stop sending terminals after Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine’s outspoken ambassador to Germany, told the CEO to "f*** off" after Musk insinuated that Ukraine should hand over parts of its territory to Russia or risk a nuclear war.
In short, it's been a strained relationship between the company and the Ukrainian military, especially with Musk expressing increasingly sympatheties to Russia.
More recently, Musk has argued that its involvement in Ukraine is putting it in an awkward position.
"SpaceX Starlink has become the connectivity backbone of Ukraine all the way up to the front lines," Musk tweeted on January 31. "This is the damned if you do part. "
"However, we are not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes," he added. "This is the damned if you don’t part."
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