Author: David Batashvili

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.


Geostrategic Activities

War in Ukraine – One Ukrainian soldier was killed and seven were wounded during the week of 21-27 October 2019according to the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation Press Center, as a result of the Russian hybrid forces’ actions. The shooting on the frontline in the Donbass region continued daily throughout the week.

War in Syria – Russia has expanded its military presence in Syria to the north-eastern part of the country, with its military police patrolling the areas around the towns of Ad-Darbasiyah, Al-Qamishli, Amudah and Tall Tamr. An air base in Al-Tabqah, in the hands of the US forces prior to their withdrawal from the area, is now used by Russian helicopters. Meanwhile, on 22 October 2019, Russian and Turkish presidents reached an agreement that left under Turkey’s control the area where it had been conducting its Operation Peace Spring offensive, and arranged for joint Russian-Turkish military patrols along the rest of the Syrian-Turkish border east of the Euphrates River. The agreement envisioned the withdrawal of the Syrian Kurdish forces at least 30 kilometers from the border. At the same time, Russian air force actively conducted air strikes against the rebel-held wider Idlib region, in Syria’s north-west, throughout the week of 21-27 October 2019.

Russian Defense Ministry’s map showing the terms of the Russian-Turkish agreement of 22 October. From: TASS

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu said that the China-Russia strategic relations were entering “a new epoch in their development,” adding that “an important role within them is played by measures of military nature.”

Reuters news agency reported that “South Korea scrambled fighter jets on Tuesday [22 October 2019] to warn Russian warplanes it said had entered its air space identification zone, the latest in a series of such incidents.” According to the Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, six Russian military aircraft participated in the incident.

Russia sent a battalion of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems and a battery of Pantsir-S1 medium-range surface-to-air missile systems abroad to Europe for the first time, for a military drill in Serbia. The exercise included the formation of a joint Russian-Serbian air defense group.

A Russian S-400 system near Belgrade, Serbia, on 25 October 2019. Source: Associated Press, from The Washington Post

Russia in Africa – President of the Central African Republic (CAR) Francois Faustin-Archange Touadera said his nation was considering hosting a Russian military base.

Russia in Africa – Russian Defense Ministry reports that Russia and Mali are discussing potential future arrival of Russian military specialists into this West African nation. The Russian officers would, reportedly, train local troops “according to the needs of the Malian side.”

Russian and Malian defense ministries representatives meeting. Source: Russian Ministry of Defense

Russia in Africa – As advertised in the previous issue of our digest, Russia sent its military aircraft on a visit to South Africa. As it turned out, the aircraft in question were two Tu-160 heavy strategic bombers, which landed at the South African Waterkloof air base on 23 October.

The Arctic Game – Russian Defense Ministry said it had obtained new proof supporting Russia’s territorial claims in the Arctic region. The claims in question partially overlap with those of Canada and Denmark.

The Arctic Game – Russia has installed a new military radar on Novaya Zemlya archipelago. According to Russians, the Resonance-N radar is capable of “seeing” the aircraft that use the stealth technology, along with cruise missiles and ballistic and supersonic targets. The radar is set to start functioning under the Northern Fleet command in November 2019.


Structural Changes

Russians intend to expand their naval infantry brigades. Each brigade is to get four additional battalions, including one tank, one recon and two naval infantry battalions. The first to expand is going to be the Northern Fleet’s 61st Naval Infantry Brigade (Sputnik, Murmansk Oblast), which will also get one sniper and one UAV companies. The final decision regarding the rest of the naval infantry brigades will be made on the basis of the 61st’s experience. As reported in the previous issue of this digest, Moscow is giving a new expeditionary force role to its naval infantry, which is set to become a more important tool of the Kremlin’s global geostrategy. Russia presently has five naval infantry brigades – two with the Pacific Fleet and one each with the Northern, Black Sea and Baltic Fleets, as well as a newly established naval infantry regiment with the Caspian Flotilla.

Russians also plan to establish battalions of TOS-1A Solntsepyok thermobaric multiple rocket launchers. The battalions will be formed in each Russian military district.

TOS-1 systems. Source: TASS, from Izvestia

Russia has established a new battalion of S-300PS surface-to-air missile systems in Tajikistan. The battalion will be based together with the 201st Military Base – a military formation in Tajikistan analogous to a Russian mechanized division.


Rearmament and Modernization

Russian Eastern Military District has received an anti-aircraft missile brigade’s worth of the S-300V4 surface-to-air missile systems. While the Russian military authorities have not disclosed the identity of the brigade in question, the 24th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade is the only such brigade-level unit in the Eastern MD. Unless Russians have just created a new anti-aircraft missile brigade, the 24th Brigade must be the unit that has been supplied with the S-300V4 systems. It had previously been known to be armed with the S-300PS systems.

Russian navy launched its first Project 23550 class icebreaking patrol ship Ivan Papanin. The ship has been* designed to be used by the Russian navy in the Arctic region.

Ivan Papanin in Saint Petersburg. Source: Russian Ministry of Defense



joint exercise of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance members took place in Tajikistan. Troops from Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan participated.

Over 100 Russian troops from the air defense units of the Southern Military District went to Egypt for a joint Russian-Egyptian military exercise.

Russian Black Sea Fleet’s naval aviation aircraft practiced air strikes in occupied Crimea, Ukraine


Arms Exports

Russia has completed the delivery of the Su-30K fighters it had sold to Angola.


*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.