NEW YORK — A man who identifies himself as a Russian soldier may have inadvertently taken two damning selfies.
Alexander Sotkin posted two photos of himself to Instagram from within Ukraine — one on June 30 and another on July 5. BuzzFeed first reported the story.
Although it’s an open secret that Russian soldiers are assisting Ukrainian nationals who are rebelling against the Ukrainian government, the Russian army denies that its troops have crossed the border.
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy said the government does not “make any decisions” or “come to conclusions” based on the social media posts. But the spokesman pointed to a news article in Russia’s Life News that claimed the photos were forgeries and the locations of the selfies were falsified.
Sotkin’s Facebook profile describes his role as an instructor at the department of radio communications. He has been active on social networks for months while on duty. His colorful Instagram feed features pictures of himself eating a watermelon, posing with other soldiers and wearing a gas mask.
Another recent selfie caption: “sitting around, working on a buk, listening to music, basically a good sunday”
Sotkin may have been unaware that an Instagram feature called “Photo Map” was turned on when he took the photos. The feature tracks and visualizes when and where users post Instagram shots. Photo Map uses GPS to determine its users’ locations, a tool that is generally accurate with 50 feet or so.
The location of his Instagram photos suggests he has been stationed on the Russia/Ukraine border since June 23. He posted 34 photos during that span — 32 on the Russian side of the border and two on the Ukrainian side. The photos of Sotkin on the Ukrainian side were taken several miles across the border.