Author: David Batashvili, Research Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation

Rondeli Russian Military Digest is a weekly brief that reports key activities by and developments within the armed forces of the Russian Federation. Researchers, civil servants and everyone else interested in what is going on in the military of one of the most dangerous nations on the planet – tune in and enjoy.

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Geostrategic Activities

War in Ukraine – One Ukrainian military service member was killed and five were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces on the Donbas frontline during the week of 20-26 September 2021.

War in Syria – Russian air force conducted strikes in the Syrian rebel-held Idlib region on 21-22 and 24-26 September 2021. 25 and 26 September saw particularly intense Russian airstrikes in various areas of the Idlib region as well as in the southern part of the Afrin region. In northern Syria, as some sources reported on 26 September, Syrian rebels from the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army fired on a Russian helicopter that was flying over their positions north of Tell Tamer/Tall Tamr, forcing it to turn away. Subsequently, Russians conducted their first air strikes against Syrian rebels in that area.

Russia in Africa – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 25 September 2021 that the authorities of Mali had asked the Russian Wagner group to provide help in Mali’s struggle against jihadist insurgents.

The Northern Fleet’s Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov entered the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea on 23 September 2021. As of 25 September, it was operating near the coast of Africa, moving in the southern direction.

Vice-Admiral Kulakov

The Arctic Game – A group of the Northern Fleet ships including Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyer Severomorsk and Ropucha / Project 775 class landing ship Georgiy Pobedonosets, on a long-range expedition in the Arctic region since 10 August 2021reached New Siberian Islands on 21 September.

The Arctic Game – Improved Yug / Project 862.2 class intelligence collection ship Gorizont, on an Arctic expedition since 14 August 2021, returned to its base in Mishukovo (near Murmansk) on 20 September. According to official Russian information, Gorizont had operated in the Barents and Kara Seas, near the Franz Joseph Land archipelago.

Estonia’s officials stated on 23 September that a Russian A-50 airborne early warning and control (AEW) aircraft had crossed their country’s airspace.

Fighters from DenmarkFinlandItaly and Sweden intercepted two Russian Tu-160 heavy strategic bombers that were escorted by two Su-35S and two Su-27 fighters, flying over the Baltic Sea on 21 September. Fighters from Canada intercepted two Russian Su-24 attack aircraft near Romanian airspace over the Black Sea on 25 September.

Three Russian Su-35S fighters intercepted a U.S. bomber over the north-western Pacific Ocean on 26 September 2021.

Russian naval and air forces (Su-24MR and Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft) in the Black Sea entered areas where Ukraine’s military forces were holding exercises, reportedly engaging in provocative behavior.

Russians delivered military equipment to their proxy regime in occupied Tskhinvali Region, Georgia.


Structural Changes

According to Russian reports, the 237th Air Assault Regiment (Pskov) of the 76th Air Assault Division (HQ in Pskov), established on 1 December 2018, completed its formation on 1 September 2021.



10,000 troops of the Southern Military District held simultaneous exercises in Rostov Oblast, North Caucasus, occupied Tskhinvali Region, Georgia, and occupied Crimea, Ukraine.

A joint exercise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was held in Orenburg Oblast, Russia. Troops from ChinaIndiaPakistanBelarusKazakhstanUzbekistanKyrgyzstan and Tajikistan participated. Russia was represented by forces of the Central Military District. Overall, 5,500 thousand troops from the eight SCO member countries and Belarus (not a SCO member) took part.

An image from a Russian report on the exercise

Bastion-P anti-ship missile systems stationed in occupied Crimea, Ukraine, conducted an exercise that also involved reconnaissance UAVs.


Arms Exports

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated on 26 September that his country intended to buy a second batch of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.

Algeria reportedly has received its first Russian S-400 systems.

President of Azerbaijan Ilhan Aliyev said that Baku had sent Moscow requests for new arms acquisitions.

*The weekly number of exercises in the Russian armed forces is very large. Therefore, all cannot be included in this digest. The exercises that are included are selected by the author for their strategic significance, particularly large scale, involvement of numerous units and locations, and/or involvement of other nations’ territories under the Russian occupation.