Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Selfies of War

Here are some selfies from the Instagram account of a sort of goofy-looking Russian soldier.  You can look him up, if you like, under the name sanya_sotkin.

He's a relatively prolific poster, and it appears he was unaware that Instagram kept track of his location when he put up photos in late June and early July, as shown in Instagram maps below.

If the maps are correct, his Russian unit was operating inside Eastern Ukraine on two occasions when the Russian military claimed its troops were on the other, Russian side of the border.

In addition, another June post placed the soldier in the same Russian spot from which, Ukrainian officials claimed, Russian forces had been launching mortars and missiles into Ukraine.

In a later post, the soldier described himself as working on a buk, which also raised concerns.  Western forces believe a Russian-made Buk missile shot Malaysian flight 17 out of the sky last month.  At least one commenter on the solder's Instagram account claims that the term "buk" is also Russian for "notebook" and that the soldier's reference was to a more innocent activity.  

This is the second case in which a Russian soldier's social media postings have seemed at odds with the official Russian line on its activity in the region.  A few weeks ago, a solder reported that he and his comrades "pounded Ukraine all night" with mortars and/or missiles.  Shortly after news of the post came out, the soldier was hustled in for an interview on Russia's state-run television news.  He explained that his account had been hacked.  Sounds a little far-fetched to me.

My guess is that Russian military commanders will set out  to shut down Instagram and other social media postings by Russian troops.  It appears that a certain amount of damage already has been done.

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