Are Russian Troops In Ukraine?

This embed is invalid

Last week, Buzzfeed reported that Russian soldier Alexander Sotkin (seen above) posted Instagram photos taken within Ukraine:

Instagram’s geolocating tool … is highly accurate. The only plausible way it could have misplaced Sotkin’s photos on the map is if he had used a trick called GPS ghosting to make his iPad think he was elsewhere.

throws cold water on the story:

Sotkin uploaded the first photograph ostensibly showing his location in Ukraine on June 30, after he posted two others complaining about boredom and lack of power for his tablet. The last photo was the one positioned in Ukraine. He tagged all three with #учения2014 which shows that he was on exercises when he snapped those selfies.

Most likely, the varying accuracy of cell tower triangulation meant that his device geotagged his photos with wildly different location coordinates based on whatever tower it could communicate with. At the least, the evidence is nowhere close to being reliable enough to say Sotkin was fighting in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, James Miller fears Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine:

Strong evidence suggests that a Russian-supplied and crewed Buk antiaircraft missile shot down MH17. The missile was deployed to this area in order to defend the road that links the separatists’ positions to each other and to Russia. These towns are so vital to the Russian-backed insurgents that the separatists decided to place their most advanced SAMs in the area to defend against Ukraine’s air force. This also means that the town has become one of the primary goals for both the separatists and the Ukrainian military.

How important is this area to the separatists? Earlier this week a large convoy was spotted moving toward the town. The video of the convoy, labeled “troops from Russia,” shows a large group of heavy armor—mostly BMPs, towed artillery and antiaircraft guns, troops transports… and two Strela-10 advanced antiaircraft systems. All of the vehicles have uniform paint configurations, but those paint configurations don’t match the Ukrainian military’s. These weapons very likely came from Russia.

Mark Adomanis takes a look at Ukraine’s big-picture problems:

There will likely be more deaths before everything is said and done. Just the other day 19 people died and 31 people were injured, and hundreds more have been killed since the violence began. The momentum of the conflict, which at one point seemed to lie with the Russian-backed rebels, has decisively shifted in Kyiv’s favor. The rebels’ most recent comments, accusing the Ukrainians of using chlorine gas, suggest a growing desperation, as do their ever more heated and extreme calls for Russian assistance. It looks as if Ukraine will escape one of the worst possible fates—a “frozen conflict” over a disputed territory, like those between Georgie and Russia or Armenia and Azerbaijan. Minus Crimea, it will be free of any enclaves directly controlled by Moscow.

It’s important, though, not to get too carried away. Even if, as now seems to be the case, Ukraine “wins” the war in the east, it’s in for a long, rough, and dangerous road. Regardless of what foreign policy Kyiv pursues or which agreements it signs with the European Union, there’s nothing that it can do to change Ukraine’s geographic position. And this position exposes it to all manner of direct and indirect Russian pressure, particularly in the economic realm.