Russia threatens Musk over Starlink

Illustration of SpaceX's Starlink network of satellites.

Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin has seemingly threatened Elon Musk- SpaceX founder and CEO , but the Tesla owner seems unperturbed.

On Sunday (May 8), Musk posted on Twitter a note that he said Rogozin, the head of Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos, had sent out to Russian media. The note claimed that equipment for SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-internet system had been delivered to Ukrainian marines and “militants of the Nazi Azov battalion” by the U.S. military.

“Elon Musk, thus, is involved in supplying the fascist forces in Ukraine with military communication equipment,” Rogozin wrote.

 “And for this, Elon, you will be held accountable like an adult — no matter how much you’ll play the fool.”

Musk acknowledged this as a threat, though nonchalantly. 

“If I die under mysterious circumstances, it’s been nice knowin ya,” he wrote.

Maye, Musk’s mom didn’t appreciate that glib response, tweeting, “That’s not funny” along with two angry-face emojis. The billionaire entrepreneur responded, “Sorry! I will do my best to stay alive.” 

Rogozin has before given hollow threats, and perhaps it is the reason Musk might have  not taken him so seriously. For example, he has repeatedly suggested that Russia may leave the International Space Station (ISS) program if sanctions imposed in the wake of the invasion aren’t lifted, but it continues to be more or less business as usual on the orbiting lab.

Besides, Musk and Rogozin have traded barbs before. In 2014, Rogozin remarked that the United States should use a trampoline to get its astronauts to the ISS: a reference to the fact that the nation was, at the time, completely dependent on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for crewed orbital missions. Back then,Rogozin, who was Russia’s deputy prime minister at the time, was mad about sanctions imposed shortly after the nation invaded and annexed Crimea, which had been Ukrainian territory, this his utterances.

In May 2020, SpaceX ended that reliance when it launched two NASA astronauts to the ISS on its landmark Demo-2 mission. Just after that liftoff, Musk delivered a riposte to Rogozin six years in the making: “The trampoline is working!” 

SpaceX, Musk and the United States Agency for International Development have been open about sending Starlink terminals to Ukraine, to help the country maintain some of its communications infrastructure during the ongoing invasion by Russia. Ukrainian officials asked for such equipment in late February, shortly after the invasion began.

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