Strava fitness tracker app on phone screen in hand in front of blurred background

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Was a Russian commander killed after being tracked through Strava?

A public profile alleged to detail the commander's jogging route could have revealed his location.


Mikael Thalen


Posted on Jul 12, 2023

A former Russian submarine commander who was shot and killed on Monday may have been tracked through a fitness app, media reports claim.

The commander, Stanislav Rzhitsky, died while on a jog this week in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar, according to the state news agency TASS.

Russian authorities, who claim to have later detained a suspect with a pistol and a silencer, say that a motive is currently unclear. Prior to the suspect’s detainment, Russian media outlets reported that Rzhitsky may have been located through Strava, an app used largely by cyclists and runners.

A public Strava profile bearing the commander’s name, which details the user’s recent jogging routes, shows one such route that runs through the very park where Rzhitsky was killed.

While verification questions remain regarding the account, several pictures of Rzhitsky had been posted to the profile. Detailed cycling routes from Sevastopol in 2014, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based, were also present on the profile.

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence later described in a statement on Telegram how Rzhitsky was allegedly shot, but stopped short of taking credit for the commander’s assassination.

“The submariner was jogging in the ’30th Anniversary of Victory’ park in Krasnodar,” the statement said. “Around 6 a.m., he was shot seven times with a Makarov pistol. As a result of the gunshot wounds, Rzhitsky died on the spot.”

Content on the profile was also reportedly “liked” by Kyrylo Budanov, the chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. But despite assertions online, no evidence has been presented linking Budanov to the account. Many have suggested that the account was simply part of a prank that took place after the commander’s profile was located.

Privacy experts have been warning for years over the dangers posed by such fitness apps. In late 2017, Strava released a data visualization map that showed all the activity tracked by its app’s users. As a result, numerous secret U.S. Army bases were uncovered due to soldiers that had been using Strava.

While questions still remain, it appears increasingly likely that the commander’s digital footprint may have very well helped his killer.

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*First Published: Jul 12, 2023, 9:02 am CDT