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.

For a comprehensive geographic view of the Russian military structure see our Interactive Map of the Russian Military Forces.


Geostrategic Activities

War in Syria – In the week of 3-9 February 2020, Russian air force conducted intense daily air strikes against the Syrian rebel-controlled territory, as a part of the Russia-Iran-Assad coalition’s offensive in the wider Idlib region. Civilian casualties as a result of Russian air strikes have been reported again. In the north-eastern Syria, on 4 February, US forces once again blocked the movement of Russian troops in the area.

American troops block the movement of Russians on 4 February 2020. Source: Defence Blog

The aftermath of Russian air strikes in Taftanaz town, Idlib region. Source:

War in Ukraine – Shooting on the Donbass frontline in Ukraine continued daily during the week of 3-9 February 2020. Five Ukrainian servicemen were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces during the week.

According to the commander of the US 2nd Fleet, Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, US Navy no longer considers America’s East Coast an uncontested area for the US naval ships, due to the increased activity of Russian submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. “Our new reality is that when our sailors toss the lines over and set sail, they can expect to be operating in a contested space once they leave Norfolk,” said Lewis. He also stated: “We have seen an ever-increasing number of Russian submarines deployed in the Atlantic, and these submarines are more capable than ever, deploying for longer periods of time, with more lethal weapons systems.”

Russia pledged to boost military cooperation with the Maduro regime in Venezuela in order to help it in the face of the American pressure.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas. Photo: 7 February 2020

Lavrov and Maduro in Caracas, on 7 February 2020. Source: BBC


Rearmament and Modernization

Russia’s modernized Tu-160M type heavy strategic bomber conducted its first test flight. Russians intend to begin deliveries of the Tu-160Ms to their air force in 2021.



French General André Lanata, former Chief of Staff of the French Air Force and presently a senior NATO commander, stated that Russian and Chinese efforts to maneuver spacecraft close to Western satellites constituted a threat to the NATO allies.



Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov and Ropucha / Project 775 class landing ship Kondopoga “engaged in extensive training in the southern part of the Norwegian Sea” on 6 February. Kinzhal cruise missile were fired during the exercise. As The Barents Observer noted, “the training area is located just south of the Arctic Circle and in vicinity of several Norwegian offshore installations, including the Aasta Hansten, Norway’s northernmost natural gas field connected to the national pipeline grid.”

800 troops from the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Protection units of the 58th Army (HQ in Vladikavkaz, Republic of North Ossetia-Alania) drilled in Stavropol Krai. The participating NBC units came from the Russian Federation’s administrative regions North Ossetia-Alania, Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, as well as from the Russian-occupied Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia.

Russian troops conducted exercises in both of Georgia’s occupied regions. 1,200 troops of the 4th Military Base (a mechanized brigade-sized unit) drilled in Tskhinvali Region, while a flamethrower unit in the same occupied province also conducted an exercise. 500 troops of the 7th Military Base (another mechanized brigade-sized unit) exercised in Abkhazia.

Tank forces of the 1st Tank Army (HQ in Bakovka, Moscow Oblast) conducted exercises on the firing grounds in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod Oblasts.


Arms Exports

Nigeria accepted a Russian Mi-171E transport helicopter into its armed forces.

Mi-171E helicopter delivered to Nigeria. Source:


* 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.