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 – Shooting took place every day on the Donbass frontline in eastern Ukraine during the week of 19 August-25 August 2019. One Ukrainian serviceman was killed and six were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces, according to the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation Press Center.

War in Syria – Russians continued their active participation in the Syrian regime’s operations against the rebels in the south of the wider Idlib region during the week of 19 August-25 August. According to a variety of sources collected by the Live Universal Awareness Map, Russian air strikes targeted the city of Maarat al-Numan and the towns and villages of al-Adfah, Banin, al-Bashiriya, Bidama, Dar Bsidah, Deir al-Gharbi, Deir Sharqi, Haysh, Hish, Horsh Binin, Kafr Nabl, Kafr Sajinah, Ma’ar Shoreen, Maarat Hurmah, Ma’rshmarin, al-Tah, Tall Manis and al-Tamanah. Civilian casualties were reported as a result of the Russian attacks. The Assad regime’s Russian-backed offensive met military success in the week of 19 August-25 August. The regime’s forces encircled and then took over the rebel territory in the southernmost part of the wider Idlib region, including the towns of Kafr Zayta, Khan Shaykhun, al-Lataminah and Murak. Tens of thousands of the region’s residents have fled towards the Turkish border as a result of this latest offensive by the Russia-Iran-Assad coalition.

A Russian air strike in the southern outskirts of Maarat al-Numan. Source: Omar Albam, from

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu continued efforts towards a Russian-Chinese alignment, saying that there was “a tendency of the worsening military-political situation” in the Far East, and that the US and its allies were trying to increase their influence in the Asia-Pacific region, while attempting to weaken Russia’s and China’s positions in South-East Asia.

Shoygu also visited Moldova – a nation divided between pro-European and pro-Russian factions. There he met with a pro-Russian politician President Igor Dodon and pushed the proposal of a three-year cooperation plan between the Russian and Moldovan defense ministries. Besides, Shoygu went to Moldova’s Transnistria region, controlled by pro-Russian separatists and containing about 1,500 Russian troops, where he praised Russia’s “peacekeeping” role in the area and promised that it was not going to end anytime soon.

Shoygu’s busy week also included sanctioning a new military financing for Moscow’s proxy regime in the Russian-occupied Abkhazia, Georgia.

On 19 August 2019 the UK Ministry of Defense reported that “RAF Typhoons deployed in Estonia on NATO Baltic Air Policing today intercepted two Russian Su-30 ‘Flanker’ fighters as they transited over the Baltic Sea,” while on 21 August the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) that controls the British overseas operations said regarding the Typhoons deployed in Estonia that “the latest scramble yesterday saw the jets intercept two Russian aircraft including a Su-34 fighter.”


Structural Changes

According to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, in 2019 Russia intends to establish a new mixed aviation division headquarters and a new anti-aircraft missile brigade in the Eastern Military District. An article in Izvestia newspaper reported on the planned establishment of the apparently same anti-aircraft missile brigade that Shoygu announced, saying it would be armed with S-300V4 surface-to-air missile systems.

According to the same Izvestia article, another anti-aircraft missile unit armed with S-300V4 surface-to-air missile systems will be established in 2019 in the Arctic, under the Northern Fleet command. It is unclear at this point whether this information concerns the S-300V4 unit that is in the process of being established in Tiksi, Sakha Republic (as reported in Issue 1 of this digest) or another unit.

A news on the Russian Defense Ministry website revealed that the unit named 378th Air Base of Army Aviation, at the Dvoyevka air base in Vyazma, Smolensk Oblast, has been transformed into a separate helicopter regiment. The regiment belongs to the 6th Air and Air Defence Forces Army (HQ in Saint Petersburg).


Rearmament and Modernization

Russian navy is testing several new ships that are preparing to join the active service. Buyan-M / Project 21631 class corvette Ingushetia was towed for its trials from Zelenodolsk, Republic of Tatarstan, through the Volga and Don rivers, to the Black Sea Fleet naval base in Novorossiysk. The trials of Admiral Gorshkov / Project 22350 class frigate Admiral Kasatonov are set to continue till December 2019, when the frigate is to join the Northern Fleet. The first Gremyashchiy / Project 20385 class corvette Gremyashchiy has started its trials in the Baltic Sea. After their completion it will transfer to the Far East to join the Pacific Fleet. Another ship being tested in the Baltic Sea is Project 22800 Karakurt class corvette Sovetsk. The ship is set to join the Baltic Fleet by the end of 2019.

Corvette Ingushetia being towed from Zelenodolsk to Novorossiysk. Source: RedJak/, from 

Tank units within four Eastern Military District mechanized brigades have been rearmed with T-80BV tanks. The brigades in question include: 64th Mechanized Brigade (Knyaze-Volkonskoye, Khabarovsk Krai), 69th Covering Brigade (Babstovo, Jewish Autonomous Oblast), 38th Mechanized Brigade (Belogorsk, Amur Oblast) and 39th Mechanized Brigade (Khomutovo, Sakhalin Oblast).

Russian short-range ballistic missile brigades have been supplied with two types of recon unmanned aerial vehicles – fixed-wing Orlan-10 UAVs and quadcopter drones.

Russian armed forces conducted first flights of two new types of UAVs: Altius-U and Forpost-R.



Russian Defense Ministry announced that this year’s main Russian military exercise Center-2019 (16-21 September 2019) is going to involve about 128,000 troops and 600 aircraft. The exercise will take place in Orenburg, Astrakhan, Chelyabinsk, Kurgan and Kemerovo Oblasts, Altai Krai, Republic of Dagestan and the Caspian Sea. Forces of the Central Military District, the Eastern Military District, the Airborne Troops (VDV) and the Caspian Flotilla will participate. Troops from ChinaIndiaPakistanKazakhstanUzbekistanKyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will take part in the exercise along with the Russians.

Russian 35th Army (HQ in Belogorsk, Amur Oblast), with units in Amur Oblast, Khabarovsk Krai and Jewish Autonomous Oblast, conducted an exercise involving about 5,000 troops.

Over 100 airborne troopers from the 106th Airborne Division (HQ in Tula) participated in an Arctic military exercise in the area of Dudinka, in the extreme north of the Krasnoyarsk Krai. As was reported in Issue 2 of this digest, the drills in that area also involved naval infantry and arctic mechanized infantry, presumably from the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade (Sputnik, Murmansk Oblast) and the 80th Arctic Mechanized Brigade (Alakurtti, Murmansk Oblast).

Russia is hosting an airborne exercise on 19-28 August 2019, with the participation of 250 troops from Belarus and 150 from Egypt.

Russian 126th Coastal Defense Brigade in occupied Crimea, Ukraine conducted a military exercise in a mountainous area of the Crimean Peninsula.

Russian forces exercising in occupied Crimea. Source: Russian Ministry of Defense


*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.