Russian troops use Starlink licensed and imported from Dubai

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Reports are currently surfacing that Starlink is being leveraged increasingly by opposition forces on the front lines. According to the information provided by the Ukrainian military, authorized accounts and terminals are arriving in Russia via Dubai, and they are fully operational within contested regions. This situation is mirrored by the anecdotes shared by Ukrainian soldiers on various social media platforms. 

Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba

“The game has certainly changed. We’re noticing their Starlinks now more than ever. To be honest, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. They’ve been shipping massive quantities of Starlinks to Russia through Dubai. These accounts are active and are being used within territories they control,” says one of the shared messages. 

The reports suggest that the opponents have administered Starlink in the past but on a much smaller scale. Alongside this information, Ukrainian soldiers have reported significantly slower internet speeds at the frontline. “I’ve noticed that many are experiencing issues. It’s a common trend in this sector. In Spring, the same number of people were using Starlink in Avdeevka without any issues, but now…”, says one soldier. The proof of these issues is backed up by screenshots showing internet speed tests with results as low as 0.3Mbps.

‘Fried’ Starlink systems

The Armed Forces of Russia have reportedly begun deploying electronic warfare [EW] systems within Avdiivka in the Donetsk People’s Republic [DPR]. This move has resulted in a significant disruption of the Starlink satellite communication network, causing a total internet blackout in Avdiivka, AviaPro reported. This situation has garnered substantial coverage by Western and Ukrainian news outlets. 

Starlink had become an indispensable tool for the Ukrainian forces, allowing them to carry out smooth communication and coordination as part of their network-centric warfare approach. However, the effective deployment of Russian electronic warfare systems has noticeably disrupted the Ukrainian troops’ command and control system in Avdiivka. This strategic move has impaired the exchange of intelligence and orders from their Western allies and Kyiv. 

Photo credit: HDBlog

Because of these electronic countermeasures, the communication chain between the Ukrainian leadership and their field units has been significantly affected. Ukrainian commanders have temporarily lost their immediate connection for information exchange with their high command. This disruption now compels them to seek ways to reestablish communications outside the scope of the electronic warfare coverage area. 

Furthermore, the Russian military has initiated steps towards physically eliminating discovered Starlink terminals within the territories they control. This operation marks the first large-scale and complex application of electronic warfare against the Starlink system, echoing the successes seen previously in the Zaporizhzhia direction. Specifically, in the Orekhov region of Zaporizhzhia, several command-and-control bunkers housing Starlink terminals were eradicated.

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

On February 21, 2022, Russia stated that its border facility was attacked by Ukrainian forces, resulting in the deaths of five Ukrainian fighters. However, Ukraine quickly dismissed these allegations, labeling them as ‘false flags’.

In a notable move on the same day, Russia announced it officially recognized the self-proclaimed areas of DPR and LPR. Interestingly, according to Russian President Putin, this recognition covered all the Ukrainian regions. Following this declaration, Putin sent a battalion of Russia’s military forces, tanks included, into these areas.

Fast forward to February 24, 2022, global headlines were dominated by a significant incident. Putin commanded a forceful military assault on Ukraine. Led by Russia’s impressive Armed Forces positioned at the Ukrainian border, this assault wasn’t spontaneous but a premeditated action. Despite the circumstances resembling a war, the Russian government refrains from using this term. They’d rather refer to it as a “special military operation”.

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