Soldier’s Geotagged Instagram Selfies Land Russia and Putin in Hot Water

While Russia continues to claim it has no involvement in the civil conflict in Ukraine, the selfie-strewn Instagram profile of Russian soldier Sanya Sotkin may tell a slightly different story. A story which is landing Russian President, Vladimir Putin in even more hot water than he’s already in.

With the unwanted help of the ‘Photomap’ feature in Instagram, the 24-year-old’s Instagram profile shows a number of self-portraits that are geotagged inside the borders of Ukraine. More particularly, inside rebel-controlled territory, some of it dangerously close to the location of where Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was tragically shot down, killing all 298 people on board.

From photographs during training to dozens of selfies, Sotkin’s profile is full of inadvertent intelligence that could help pin Russia for its undesired presence in the dangerous unrest.

Claiming to be a communication expert, Sotkin posted on July 7th, “I still don’t understand what we’re doing here, so we’re continuing to go slightly crazy, listen to #swedishhousemafia and wait for new news from Ukraine!”

There are no details on whether or not the soldier will be reprimanded in any way. But it’s safe to assume that Russia will soon be looking to prohibit any such forms of communication of soldiers while in the line of duty. This, of course, to stop other nations from using this accidental intelligence against Russia’s potentially-illegal endeavors.

(via The Drum)

  • Jason Yuen

    Selfies saving lives. *grabs popcorn*

  • Chang


    Queue Russian defender response claiming an elaborate Western conspiracy in 3, 2,

  • David Liang

    Oh man…this guys going to be transferred to Siberia for sure.

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    check your facts, he is in Russian border guard on Russia Ukraine border, some times geotag is glitching and so it’s not a prove.

  • Gannon Burgett

    Interesting tid-bit. Do you have a source we could reference in an update?

  • Facepalm

    Selfies are always trouble

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    Check his uniform

  • Andrew Kandel

    A border guard wondering what he is doing on the border?

  • daniel Ballard

    A couple sharp friends have pointed out the location is so close to the border the geotag could be off, depending on phone and Instagram settings. Just a small cautionary note

  • Michael Litwin

    Im suprized you went into so little detail. The most interesting part of Sanya’s story is that he had taken selfies inside the BUK anti-aircraft rocket louncher, which makes the whole story so much more intense.

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    not BUK, but “book” aka notebook aka laptop. (facepalm)

  • deuxsux

    or… just hear me out here… this was proven to be a fake story.

  • Chang

    Well according to all the resources I’ve found online, he’s wearing a Sergeant’s stripes from the regular Russian Army. The border guards have an extra device consisting of a wreath and crossed rifles above the rank stripes on the epaulet. (uniforminsignia (dot) org)

    Also, perusing the rest of his instagram feed, he has pictures of himself with two probable Spetznaz (Russian special forces) members on 23 May 2014. He covered their faces for anonymity, but it would seem unusual for special forces to be associating with mere border guards. They are recognizable from the Russian Navy undershirts with camouflage fatigues.

    Earlier in his instagram feed, from “19 months ago” he has a picture of himself tagged #армия #работа which is “Army” and “work”, and he is wearing the collar tab of the communications branch of the regular Army.

  • DamOTclese2

    Sanya Sotkin is now hanging upside down in a Russian prison naked and bleeding while Putin hammers him with a claw hammer. How HDRE he expose Putin;’s war crimes?

  • Mojo

    Yeah, I think Sotkin will quietly dissapear soon…

  • dorn

    All that the geo data says is from where the images were uploaded from. Not where all of the images in the photo groupings were taken.

    All of the images used could have been taken weeks/months ago.
    The whole thing seems a little to easy.

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    sure, cheek his instagram it’s full of pictures from outside the regular trainings, because Russian army is on hi-alert wanting for provocation of Ukraine were civil war is hi-gear. He is low in rank so he sits and waits for orders.

  • JoeNoName

    but the soldier has to be with its platoon, not just leave it and upload the photos and then come back to the HQ.

  • Chang

    Also, in photography related news, there’s a picture of him with a camera from 30 months ago. Looks like the Russian Army uses Nikon.

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    So you think border guard don’t have communications branch? His beret is green which is a color of border guard in Russia

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    You are stupid.

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    And you are stupid too…

  • Mojo

    I have never said this to another person on a forum, but dude, you are awesome. Your posts are great.

  • dorn

    Ok. but when? My point is that this proves nothing. Even if it is a guy posting stuff like this we cannot prove where the photos used in the collages were taken.

    All we have is a lot of speculation based off of where the upload happened from. That and the whole things seems almost to perfect of a mistake for someone to make.

  • Mojo

    Tuche! Masterful counter argument! You might as well have stuck your tongue at him and called him a poopy-head, Вы корма голову!

  • Chang


  • Nick Franceschina

    R.I.P. Sanya Sotkin

  • Mojo

    Yeah, none of us are giving him much of a chance, are we? :D

  • Mojo

    Ok. And that means what coming from you?

  • Jost1

    Are you also in the communication-branch?

  • Chang

    I’m certain they do. Also, you are apparently right about the beret, though again, his rank doesn’t look like the border guard rank I’ve been able to find online. It is also important to note, in the interests of full disclosure, that the “border guard” has been stationed outside of Russia before, and that they are a branch of the FSB.

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    what prove that he is outside the border? glitching geotag made from laptop with out GPS, just by GSM towers?

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    HAHA funny how you used google translate (((:

    Have you ever been to Russia? Sure it has problems of all sorts, but thinking that this poor solder is tortured or killed is stubborn brain washed thinking. Maximum what he will get is dismissed from his duty with disgrace and probation in civil

  • Kynikos

    Not ve-ry nice!

  • Chang

    Well I’m not certain anything can. If you look at his geotag map, the majority of his recent posts are indeed tagged within Russia. However the two which tag outside are definitely within rebel-held territory, and they both appear to have been taken at night, when a secretive military operation might be performed. It certainly could be a glitch, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it weren’t.

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    yea right, secret military operation were he has time to post photo listen to music, with comment thats boring and has nothing to do. Reality check

  • Konstantin

    Just don’t be stupid. How do you think, if there is secret russian soldiers in Ukraine had they internet devices / connection for instagramm? It’s just another provocation fake.

    No one soldier in any army of the world don’t have pesonal communication devices in combat situation.

  • Chang

    True. But I might also turn that thought around and say, if he’s only a border guard, why would he be commenting about “nothing to do”? If all he has to do is guard the border, wouldn’t that be the expectation? Whereas if he is Russian Army, mightn’t he expect more action? Like, for instance, invading a neighboring country? ;-)

  • Chang

    Excellent point.

  • Mojo

    Actually, my first girlfriend was Russian. Went to a Russian speaking church for several years in my area too. Tried to learn the language to impress her. I never spoke better than a four year old, and it’s been years, so my apologies that I’m rusty. But I can still offer you ice cream and tell you that I love you like no one’s business!

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    You are not being funny. I know for sure Russia is not invading Ukraine. I know for sure that USA NATO soldiers are invading Europe, because i see every second day two NATO fighter jets (F16 but I’m not sure) flying really low over my beloved city Vilnius, a capital of “independent” country of Lithuania. We have no war here but they are flying.
    Anyway, do you know how army works? Do you know what night shift is? We assume hi is in communication branch, so his night shift is to sit in a room with computers and other communication devices and wait. No doubt it’s boring…

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    Or time to post pictures and say that night shift is boring.
    Good point (;

  • Chang

    Well, Russia already invaded Ukraine, with their illegal annexation of Crimea.
    And two things about F-16s in Vilnius. One, they are there to protect against Russian aggression, and have been deployed there intermittently since 2004 as part of the Baltic Air Policing strategy. Two, they are either Danish or Dutch F-16s, not American.

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    I Don’t care those jets Danish or Dutch or US, they are flying to low over city. Like really low.

    Come on, Russia always had an army base in Crime. What aggressions? The only aggression i see is coming from Ukraine US and UK, blaming Russia in all sins.

    I think next time there is an earthquake somewhere, US will say thats Putin to blame.

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    By the way i have relatives in Ukraine and in Crimea.

    Those one who are in Ukraine afraid that they will be forced by authorities to join the Ukraine army. They are afraid for there lives and there families.

    Those who are in Crimea, say that joining Russian federation is the best thing that happened to Crimea in past 25 years.

  • Chang

    Russia has annexed the Crimea. That’s quite different from “an army base”.

    As far as “too low” is concerned, we have a bumper sticker in the US that I like, and which fits the situation. It says “Jet Noise: The Sound of Freedom”.

  • Chang

    Like I said, you’re of Russian extraction, and perhaps not Lithuanian. You sound a bit nostalgic for the Berlin wall and the Cold War. Most Lithuanians of my acquaintance are not.

  • Chang


  • kbj

    Really a Lithuanian who favors Russia over the EU? When you get absorbed by Russia again, don’t come crying to us!

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    I’m not afraid because there is no aggression from Russia. Don’t be brain washed by US propaganda. There is nothing valuable in Baltic territories for Russia. For US there is, army bases near Russian doorsteps.