Soldier’s Instagram account may prove Russian involvement in Ukraine

Social media has found itself in some pretty amazing places – national revolutions, divorces – but here’s a new one: international affairs and previously covert operations.  According to an article by Buzzfeed, the Instagram account of a Russian soldier may prove that Russia is operating in Ukraine.

A series of posts by Russian soldier Alexander Sotkin appear to show Sotkin, a member of the Russian military, inside of Ukraine.  The evidence for the location is captions uploaded by Sotkin, as well as the geolocating tool that comes with Instagram uploads.  Buzzfeed refers to geolocating as “highly accurate.”

Even more astounding is that Sotkin isn’t the first Russian soldier who appeared to be using social media to give away his location and potentially embarrass his country.  Last week, another Russian soldier, Vadmin Grigoriev, uploaded pictures to the Russian social media site, VK.  The pictures showed artillery damage, and captions from Grigoriev said that troops had been “shelling Ukraine all night,” something which Ukraine had been claiming Russia was doing:


Grigoriev later went on Russian state TV and said his account had been hacked.  Sound familiar?  As noted by ThinkProgress, the issue has become so problematic that a “representative in the country’s parliament has now proposed a new law that would make it illegal for soldiers to post pictures posing with military equipment.”

This is, without a doubt, one of the more bizarre blog entries that I have ever written.  I never thought I’d see the day where previously covert military operations were being uploaded to social media, where major news outlets would capture the posts and display them for all the world to see.  You would really think that common sense would impose some limits, but here we are, using the words “selfie” and “international politics” in the same sentence.

I’ll try, for a moment, to bring this back to the real world, and as bizarre as this is, there are ramifications here for the average person: always use caution with what you take a picture of and upload.  The last thing any elected official ever wants to do is find themselves in a position where they upload something that they should not have.  If you are taking a picture with others, always make sure you have their consent before taking and uploading the picture.  Never take a picture of anything that is confidential or proprietary.  Never repeat secret conversations.  And for God’s sake, if you are in the military, don’t make any uploads to social media from a mobile device that can pinpoint your nearly exact location!!


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