Image: NASA

UN urges Russia to ‘immediately’ cease interference in European satellites

The United Nations' telecommunication agency condemned Russian interference in the satellite systems of several European countries.

Earlier this month, the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) received a series of complaints from Ukraine, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Luxembourg about the Kremlin’s alleged satellite interference that has affected GPS signals and television channels.

The ITU reviewed these complaints and published a document Monday calling the practice “extremely worrisome and unacceptable.”

According to the ITU, Russia’s satellite interference had repeatedly affected specific channels predominantly carrying Ukrainian television and radio programming. Earlier reports said that Russia targeted children's TV channels to show violent images of the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s complaint to the ITU documented at least 11 cases of interference in the last three months affecting dozens of Ukrainian television programs, Reuters reported.

The agency also said that Russia’s interference with the French and Swedish satellite networks originated from stations located near Moscow, Pavlovka and Kaliningrad — a Russian territory between Poland and Lithuania.

Last month, Swedish authorities blamed Russia for “harmful interference” targeting the Nordic country’s satellite networks, which it noticed two weeks after joining NATO — a move that Russia regarded as a threat to its national security.

Swedish authorities said interference from Russia and Crimea has targeted three different Sirius satellite networks.

France, in turn, complained about the disruption to its satellite provider Eutelsat, according to the ITU. Bloomberg reported recently that at least three of Eutelsat's satellites have been “seriously affected” by Russian interference, leading to interrupted broadcasts. In two instances, Russia reportedly replaced the programming of Disney shows with war videos in Russian.

In April, state officials from Lithuania and Estonia raised the alarm about Russian interference with navigation signals after two flights from Helsinki to the Estonian city of Tartu experienced GPS jamming, forcing it to turn around mid-flight.

Earlier this year, the GPS on a jet carrying U.K. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was jammed by Russia as it flew over Kaliningrad.

The ITU said that it reached out to Russia about the results of its investigation but received no reply. In an earlier response to France about the satellite disruption, the Kremlin said that it had not detected any emissions that could cause harmful interference to French satellite networks, the agency reported.

The ITU requested Russia to “cease any deliberate action to cause harmful interference,” and to further investigate if any earth stations were currently deployed at or close to the locations identified by the geolocation results provided by the agency.

Responding to the ITU’s statement, Russia’s presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that he is not aware “of any UN structure declaring the Russian involvement in interference in the operation of satellite systems of European countries.”

“I don’t know anything about this, and, in fact, we need to figure out whether this is the authority of some UN structures to discuss this,” he added.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk

is a reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.