The Kremlin is threatening U.S. and allied civilian satellites as its faltering invasion of neighboring Ukraine enters its ninth month. A senior Russian official said they could be considered military targets if used in the conflict.
Russian Foreign Ministry official Konstantin Vorontsov on Thursday warned the United Nations of the “extremely dangerous tendency” of the U.S. and its allies to use commercial satellites and other “outer space civil infrastructure facilities” in armed conflicts. “Quasi-civil infrastructure may be a legitimate target for a retaliation strike,” Mr. Vorontsov said, according to Tass, the official Russian news agency.
He said the actions of the U.S. and its allies “unreasonably jeopardize the stability of the civil space activities and numerous socio-economic processes on the ground, which determine people’s well-being, first of all in developing countries.”
The Russians have been trying to acquire anti-satellite technology and capabilities, U.S officials said. The White House warned that any attack on U.S. satellites would be met with an “appropriate response.”
“We will pursue all means to explore, deter and hold Russia accountable for any such attack,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday.
Commercial satellites in Ukraine are providing a number of services, including communications through operations such as billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Starlink, the satellite internet network of his SpaceX company. They also provide detailed images of the battlefield that in the past would have only been available through government satellites.