Russian official warns Moscow could target U.S. satellites being used in Ukraine war
10/31/2022 // JD Heyes // Views

A Russian foreign ministry official has issued a stark warning to the United States and its NATO allies that commercial satellites being used to assist Ukraine in its efforts to repel Moscow's invasions are legitimate targets for retaliation.

"Russia, which in 1957 launched Sputnik 1, the first manmade satellite, into space and in 1961 put the first man in outer space, has a significant offensive space capability -- as do the United States and China. In 2021, Russia launched an anti-satellite missile to destroy one of its own satellites," Reuters reported earlier this week.

"Konstantin Vorontsov, deputy director of the Russian foreign ministry's department for non-proliferation and arms control, told the United Nations that the United States and its allies were trying to use space to enforce Western dominance," the report added.

To be sure, Russia has tested an anti-satellite capability successfully, though the U.S. Air Force conducted a successful test decades ago using a missile fired from an F-15 fighter plane. China is also believed to have an anti-satellite capacity.

Most U.S. efforts today are focused on the use of lasers to either put satellites out of action or blind them, since destroying them creates massive fields of space junk that endlessly orbit the planet.

Reading from notes, Vorontsov said the use of Western satellites to aid the Ukrainian war effort was "an extremely dangerous trend," according to Reuters.

"Quasi-civilian infrastructure may be a legitimate target for a retaliatory strike," Vorontsov said in remarks to the United Nations First Committee. He added that the West using such satellites to aid Ukraine was "provocative."


"We are talking about the involvement of components of civilian space infrastructure, including commercial, by the United States and its allies in armed conflicts," Vorontsov was quoted as saying at the United Nations.

He did not mention any specifics but billionaire Elon Musk has been providing Ukraine with equipment to access his Starlink satellite constellations located over the country, which have helped the Ukrainian military target Russian units, according to reports.

Earlier this month, Musk briefly threatened to end providing Starlink service to Ukraine unless the Pentagon stepped in to help fund the effort since Musk's rocket and space firm, SpaceX, has been paying 100 percent of the costs since he deployed satellites over Ukraine in early March, just weeks after the Russians invaded.

Defense Department spokeswoman Sabrina Singh informed reporters after Musk's comments that the United States is “assessing our options” to keep the Internet working for Ukraine’s military.

“And you mentioned this a little bit, but could you get into the wider implications of, you know, if Starlink is proven integral to the Ukrainians and up to this stage, what happens if they no longer have that capability? And are you starting contingency plans for that?” a reporter asked.

“Well, we certainly recognize the advantages that any SATCOM capability has and allows the Ukrainians to use not just on the battlefield, but within — within the country itself. And we understand the fragility in those communications, and it’s important that not just command-and-control remain intact on the battlefield, but throughout. But again, we’re assessing our options and trying to do what we can to help these SATCOM communications, the capabilities to ensure that these communications remain for the Ukrainian forces,” Singh replied.

“There’ve been some kind of competing claims on who — who has paid for Starlink so far. Has it been privately donated, or has this been — has this been U.S. government-funded primarily?” the reporter queried further.

“I’ve seen the open-source reporting out there that there have been donations from — I think it was characterized as different partners. I don’t have more for you on that at this time. Again, in terms of what this department decides to do, in terms of a SATCOM capability needed for Ukraine, I don’t have anything to announce of further assistance at this time,” Singh added.

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