UN body reviews allegations of Russian satellite interference

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) -The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is reviewing a series of complaints this week from Ukraine and European countries about satellite interference that have affected navigation services and television shows, the body confirmed.

The interference has jammed GPS signals and could endanger air traffic control, the European Union said in a statement to the ITU earlier this month. In some cases, children's TV channels were hit, it said, and violent images of the war in Ukraine were spliced in.

Ukraine's complaint to the U.N. body, dated June 3 and seen by Reuters documented at least 11 cases of interference, in the last three months affecting dozens of Ukrainian TV programmes.

It asks the body to "take all possible measures to stop interventions of the Russian Federation".

France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Luxembourg also sent complaints alleging "harmful interference" in their satellite networks, the ITU confirmed, without saying who was responsible.

A spokesperson for Russia's diplomatic mission in Geneva said it acted in full compliance with ITU rules and said NATO countries had also practiced harmful interference in its networks. It had filed its own ITU complaint, he said.

Western officials accused Russia of a massive cyberattack against a satellite internet network in Ukraine at the onset of its full-scale invasion of its neighbour in 2022. More recently, airlines have complained about a rise in GPS interference affecting navigation for months and Estonia has blamed Russia for tampering with navigation devices in airspace above the Baltic states.

The ITU, made up of 193 member states, is responsible for regulating and coordinating the global satellite system and has a meeting this month. Its constitution tasks it with coordinating efforts to eliminate harmful interference.

It is not clear exactly how the body could respond to the complaints during its June 24-28 meeting.

An ITU spokesperson said it could not "prejudge" the outcome of the meeting, adding that the "objective is to resolve the matter to allow for the operation of radiocommunications services free of harmful interference..."

A starting point might be producing a report on the extent of interference, as the ITU did already on wartime damage to Ukraine's telecommunications sector.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; additional reporting by James Pearson and Alexander Marrow in London; Editing by Alex Richardson)