Russia: Private satellites could become a wartime target

Russia continues its trend of making new statements about the international order in space, and as the United States continues to take advantage of more commercial satellites for intelligence and communications work, Russia has issued a warning that these may become a “legitimate target” for war operations.

According to “space”, this came according to statements made by a Russian delegation at a meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on Reducing Space Threats, which is being held in Geneva, and the purpose of the working group meeting is to discuss how to reduce threats and increase Cooperation in space by establishing and adopting new standards and principles for responsible behaviour.

This was stated by Konstantin Vorontsov, a member of the Russian Foreign Ministry and head of the Russian delegation to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs.

Vorontsov said that the Russian delegation “would like to emphasize a very dangerous trend beyond the harmless use of outer space technologies that became apparent during the events in Ukraine.”

Vorontsov added that the use of commercial and civilian satellite assets by the United States and its allies during the war with Ukraine constituted indirect involvement in military conflicts whether they realized it or not, and that the so-called “semi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for the response.”

At the very least, this provocative use of civilian satellites is questionable under the Outer Space Treaty, which provides for the only peaceful use of outer space, and must be strongly condemned by the international community.

Russia’s comments came about targeting commercial assets in space, as Elon Musk’s company SpaceX sent multiple shipments of Starlink stations to Ukraine to boost internet coverage and connectivity after Russian attacks on critical infrastructure.

In addition to Starlink, commercial satellite imagery companies such as Planet, Maxar and BlackSky provide critical intelligence by capturing and sharing images of the conflict from above, where they played an unexpectedly important role during the Russian invasion.

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