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 Ukraine – Firing continued daily on the Donbass frontline during the week of 24 February-1 March 2020, with Russians becoming more active in its second half. Three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 14 were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces during the week.

War in Syria – As the battle in the Idlib region proceeded dynamically during the week, Russian air force conducted intense strikes against numerous targets in support of the Assad regime forces. Civilian casualties following the Russian strikes have been reported. Following the Turkey-Assad escalation in Idlib after the 28 February air attack on the Turkish troops, when the Assad regime declared the Idlib region air space closed, Russian Defense Ministry said that Russia could not “guarantee safety of Turkish aviation in Syria.”

War in Syria – Russia reportedly supplied at least one Mi-17 helicopter to the Assad regime air force.

Two UK Royal Air Force Typhoon fighters scrambled after reports that a Russian Tu-95 strategic bomber had been spotted over the sea west of Norway. Two Norwegian and one Netherlands fighters also scrambled. Russians later claimed that they had flown two Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft in the area.

General Tod Wolters, commander of US European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, stated “that Russian submarine activity has spiked even since last year, continuing a trend of Moscow’s efforts to project military power in the Atlantic Ocean.” According to General Wolters, between 2018 and 2019, “what we saw was a 50% increase in the number of resources in the undersea,” committed by Russia.


Structural Changes

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu stated that a new air defense division had been established in the Arctic, under the Northern Fleet command. It is possible that Shoygu was referring to the 3rd Air Defense Division of the 45th Air and Air Defense Forces Army, established in early 2019. The 3rd Division includes the pre-existing 33rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment (Rogachevo, Novaya Zemlya, Arkhangelsk Oblast), as well as a new regiment, established in 2019 in Tiksi, Sakha Republic.

The Central Military District plans to establish two new separate Special Forces companies before the end of 2020. The companies are to be established in Samara (Samara Oblast) and Shilovo (Novosibirsk Oblast).

Russian military announced that a UAV detachment had been established at the Russian Kant air base in Kyrgyzstan. The unit has Forpost and Orlan-10 UAVs.


Rearmament and Modernization

The 1490th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment (Ulyanovka, Leningrad Oblast) of the 2nd Air Defense Division (HQ in St Petersburg), 6th Air and Air Defense Forces Army (HQ in Saint Petersburg) is now fully armed with S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. The regiment is of an atypically large size, having four battalions of the S-400 systems, instead of the usual two.

S-400 systems of the 1490th Regiment. Source:

Russian military reportedly tested Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile in early January 2020. The test launch was conducted in the Barents Sea, from the Admiral Gorshkov / Project 22350 class frigate Admiral Gorshkov.



About 7,000 troops from the Russian artillery and missile units in both western and eastern Caucasus are out of their bases for large-scale drills. Participating units include artillery of the Russian forces in occupied Tskhinvali Region, Georgia.


*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.