- A Russian submarine commander was assassinated by an unknown gunman on his daily running route.
- Stanislav Rzhytsky was the commanding officer of the submarine Krasnodar, which had launched repeated cruise missile attacks on Ukrainian cities.
- Rzhytsky was implicated in a 2022 missile attack on the city of Vinnytsia, which resulted in the deaths of 27 Ukrainian civilians.
A former Russian officer is dead, the victim of an apparent assassination while he was out for a morning run. Stanislav Rzhytsky, the former commander of the submarine Krasnodar, was shot four times on July 10, apparently after his assassin used information shared on his Strava account. The incident is just the latest in which Strava has been used to generate key intelligence, including revealing secret U.S. bases.
According to the Kyiv Post, Rzhytsky was on his morning run on Monday in the city of Krasnodar, Russia, when he was shot several times. Rzhytsky died at the scene. There were no eyewitnesses to the attack, which took place in heavy rain, though a surveillance camera captured the image of a person of interest in the vicinity of the attack. Russian state media later reported an individual armed with a suppressed pistol was detained in the town of Tuapse on the Black Sea on suspicion of involvement in the attack.
Rzhytsky had recently retired from Russian Navy service. His last assignment was as commander of the submarine Krasnodar, a Type-636.3 improved Kilo-class diesel electric submarine; Krasnodar entered service in 2015 with Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Russia has relied on ships and submarines of the Black Sea fleet as cruise missile-firing ships that are immune to Ukrainian retaliatory action. The submarine is alleged to have been behind a cruise missile attack on the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia in July 2022 that killed 23 civilians. Reuters reports his name appeared on a Ukrainian list of Russian war criminals.
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Rzhytsky was a well-known user of the Strava app, used worldwide by fitness enthusiasts to track exercise. Strava allows users to share their exercise routes, trip performance, and how long it takes to complete a route. Baza, a Russian news site on the Telegram social media app, reported that Rzhytsky almost always ran the exact same route, which was published on his public Strava account. He apparently did not fear any reprisal for his Navy service, and “did not receive any threats, anonymous messages and did not participate in memorable conflicts, including at work. The last days before the murder, the man behaved as usual.”
Ukrainian intelligence did not take responsibility for the killing, but published an unusually detailed article on its website with details only someone familiar with the murder investigation, or the assassination planning, would know. According to the spy agency, known by the acronym GUR, he was killed “around six in the morning” in the Krasnodar Park of Culture and Recreation with a Makarov pistol, he died on the spot, and there was heavy rain, and as a result, no witnesses.
A Known Security Risk
If Ukrainian secret agents did kill Rzhytsky with the help of Strava, it’s not the first time the app has been used as a source of intelligence. In 2018, security researchers used the app’s global heat map of 13 trillion GPS points to identify users working out in remote places worldwide, places that turned out to be secret military or intelligence bases in conflict zones. One researcher identified U.S. military bases, a Turkish military patrol, Russian soldiers serving at an air base in Syria, and others, based on Strava maps.
As a result of the Strava revelations, U.S. Central Command announced it was refining its security policies. It is unknown whether or not Russian authorities took similar action, though as a civilian, Rzhytsky would have no longer been bound by military regulations.
If Strava was used to help target Rzhytsky, there was ample warning that Strava could be used against him. Yet the former submarine commander seemingly did little to hide details of his activities, offering up everything that could be used to ambush him to anyone who looked at his account—including anyone hunting him. Rzhytsky was seemingly unaware, or did not care, that he was a wanted man.
Kyle Mizokami is a writer on defense and security issues and has been at Popular Mechanics since 2015. If it involves explosions or projectiles, he's generally in favor of it. Kyle’s articles have appeared at The Daily Beast, U.S. Naval Institute News, The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, Combat Aircraft Monthly, VICE News, and others. He lives in San Francisco.