Ukraine Attempts To ‘Hack’ Russian Satellites With Help From ‘Foreign Countries’; Moscow Says ‘We Have A Right To Respond’

The Russian foreign minister has alleged that Ukraine is attempting to interfere with Russian communication satellites with the help of foreign experts.

On April 5, the Russian foreign ministry issued a statement highlighting Ukraine’s alleged endeavor to interfere with Russia’s civilian communication satellites, reported TASS. 

“The Kyiv regime, with the participation of specialists from several foreign countries, is attempting to influence Russian civilian communication satellites,” the foreign ministry said. 

The ministry noted that such an act is a severe breach of international law, and Russia has the authority to respond suitably. Furthermore, Moscow highlighted that they have all the required resources at their disposal to take action.

Satellites have played a significant role in the ongoing conflict between the two warring countries. Russia has greater capabilities in outer space compared to Ukraine. 

Based on what space experts have told EurAsian Times, there could be a possibility that Ukraine, with the help of Western countries, might interfere with data flow between Russian satellites and ground stations.

For example, in 2008, a ground station in Norway was subject to a cyberattack that caused 12 minutes of interference with NASA’s Landsat satellites. Later that year, hackers took control of NASA’s Terra Earth observation satellite and had complete access to it, with the exception of being able to give commands.

Analysts believe that if the statement made by the Russian foreign minister is true, hackers may have the ability to deactivate the Russian satellite’s communication, rendering it inoperable.

Alternatively, they could cause irreversible damage by depleting all of their fuel or directing their imaging equipment toward the sun to burn it out.

Russia has a long history of space exploration and has developed a range of advanced space technologies, including launch vehicles, satellites, and manned spacecraft. In contrast, Ukraine heavily relies on commercial satellite communication services primarily supplied by the US. 

Reports suggest Russia has trouble launching pinpoint missile attacks during the ongoing confrontation with Ukraine. This is believed to be due to the underperformance of their military and communication satellite systems.

Also, the United States has accused a Chinese firm of assisting Russia’s activities in Ukraine. Washington also urges the European Union and other partners to blacklist a Chinese satellite company for allegedly helping Russia’s military actions in Ukraine.

The prospects for Russia’s space industry appear gloomy as resources are fast depleting. Due to the conflict in Ukraine and disagreements with NATO. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has experienced a reduction in funding in recent years and is navigating tensions with other nations with significant space capabilities.

The sanctions currently in place restrict Russia’s ability to import technology. Moscow has lost several launch agreements at its Baikonur Cosmodrome spaceport located in Kazakhstan.

Russia has also experienced a decline in business with the United States. NASA and its partners can now transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) via SpaceX and Boeing spacecraft instead of using a Soyuz rocket. 

Furthermore, the European Space Agency has severed ties with Roscosmos, particularly concerning the ExoMars mission.

Russian satellite
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Space, A Key Element In Russia-Ukraine War

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is not considered the “world’s first space war.” This title was given to the Gulf War three decades ago. Since then, space technology has become a routine aspect of modern warfare.

However, in recent years, there has been a trend towards outsourcing a significant part of space-related tasks to private companies due to their specialized expertise and ability to develop and implement certain types of space technology more efficiently.

This has led to an increase in the use of private satellites for both military and civilian purposes, allowing a single satellite to serve multiple functions simultaneously. Ukraine is currently utilizing commercial satellite services provided by the US-based company SpaceX. 

Starlink, a satellite-based internet service provided by SpaceX, has become a crucial resource for the Ukrainian military, offering connectivity to troops deployed on the front lines of the conflict where traditional communication methods are unavailable.

Ukrainian officials have lauded the system, citing instances where Starlink was able to re-establish connections following the destruction of infrastructure by cruise missile attacks.

Falcon Heavy Demo Mission | Official SpaceX Photos | Flickr
Falcon Heavy Demo Mission – Official SpaceX

But, in February 2023, the US-based company said that it had taken some measures to prevent its Starlink satellite communication service from being used to operate drones, which are critical to Kyiv’s military in fending off Russian aggression.

The announcement sparked outrage in Ukraine, with some accusing Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, of aligning with the Russians. 

Russia alleged that the events in Ukraine had highlighted an extremely dangerous trend beyond the peaceful employment of space technologies.

Moscow frequently said that if American commercial satellites are used to support Ukraine, it could strike them, escalating its threats of retaliation to a new front that might affect American interests more directly.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has already mentioned that Starlink satellites have encountered sabotage attempts by Russia. This service enables users with a company terminal to receive internet connections through an expanding fleet of satellites in Low Earth Orbit.