Russia says it may destroy Western satellites

Photo: Reuters

A senior Russian government official has said that Moscow could shoot down commercial Western satellites being used to help Ukraine’s war effort.

If acted on, the threat would inevitably raise fears about the spiraling escalation of the eight-month-old conflict and the risk of direct confrontation between Russia and the West, Reuters reported.

There was no immediate reaction from the United States or commercial satellite providers.

Quoted by Reuters, Konstantin Vorontsov, a senior Russian foreign ministry official, said the use of Western satellites to aid the Ukrainian war effort was “an extremely dangerous trend.”

“Quasi-civilian infrastructure may be a legitimate target for a retaliatory strike,” he told the United Nations First Committee, adding that the West’s use of such satellites to support 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,” said Vorontsov as quoted by Reuters.

He did not mention any specific satellite companies, though Elon Musk said earlier this month that his rocket company SpaceX would continue to fund its Starlink internet service in Ukraine, citing the need for “good deeds”.

Russia 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.

Moscow in August accused the United States of direct involvement in the war after Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy head of military intelligence, told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper that Kyiv was using U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers based on what he called excellent satellite imagery and real-time information.

According to Reuters report, satellite images of the conflict zone captured by commercial US satellite imagery firms are pored over daily on Twitter by open source intelligence experts who highlight the coordinates of potential Russian military vulnerabilities.