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Ukraine says Russia buying Starlink terminals in 'Arab countries'

FILE PHOTO: A Starlink satellite internet system is set up near the frontline town of Bakhmut

KYIV (Reuters) -Russian forces are buying Starlink satellite internet terminals in "Arab countries" for use on the battlefield, Ukraine's military spy agency said on Tuesday.

The Elon Musk-owned service has been vital to Kyiv's battlefield communications, but Ukrainian officials have said Russian forces are also increasingly relying on it during their nearly two-year-old invasion.

The defence ministry's Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) released what it said was an audio intercept of two Russian soldiers discussing buying units from Arab providers for around 200,000 roubles ($2,200) each.

"The aggressor state Russia is purchasing communications equipment, including Starlink satellite Internet terminals, for use in the war in Arab countries," the ministry said on Telegram.

On Monday, GUR spokesman Andriy Yusov told Reuters that Russian forces were purchasing the terminals through unspecified third countries.

Starlink has said it does not do business with Russia or operate on Russian territory. The Kremlin said the terminals were neither certified for use in, nor officially supplied to, Russia, and therefore could not be used.

(Reporting by Dan Peleschuk; editing by Andrew Heavens)