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.

You can see all issues of Rondeli Russian Military Digest at this page. For your convenience, we have added the Digest Content Search that can help users find the digest’s issues containing information they need using key words and phrases.

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


Geostrategic Activities

War in Ukraine – Shooting on the frontline in Donbass, Ukraine, occurred every day in the week of 23-29 March 2020. Four Ukrainian soldiers were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces during the week.

Nine UK Royal Navy ships, including four frigates, as well as British naval helicopters, shadowed a group of Russian naval vessels that had “lingered” in the English Channel for several days in March 2020. The Russian group consisted of “three Steregushchiy-class corvettes, two Ropucha-class landing ships and two Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates accompanied by tug and support vessels.”

British offshore patrol vessel Tyne shadows Russian corvette Steregushchiy in the English Channel. Source: Royal Navy, from The Guardian

Belgium’s air force jets intercepted a Russian An-26 military transport plane over the Baltic Sea on 26 March. According to the NATO statement, the plane operated in violation of international norms.

Japan’s F-2 fighters shadowed two Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers flying over the Sea of Japan.


Rearmament and Modernization

As Jane’s reports, “Russia has introduced unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) assisted targeting into its Eastern Military District (EMD) units equipped with the Soviet-era 2S5 Giatsint (Hyacinth) 152 mm self-propelled howitzer to increase their long-range accuracy.” The UAVs in question are Orlan-10.

The reactive battalion of the 244th Artillery Brigade (Kaliningrad) of the Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps (HQ also in Kaliningrad) has been rearmed with the Smerch multiple rocket launchers instead of the Grad systems.



15 warships, 12 support ships and about 20 aircraft of the Pacific Fleet launched series of exercises in the Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk. The participating warships include: the Pacific Fleet’s flagship, Slava / Project 1164 Atlant class guided missile cruiser VaryagSovremennyy / Project 956 Sarych class guided missile destroyer BystryyUdaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyers Admiral Tributs and Admiral VinogradovGrisha III/ Project 1124M class anti-submarine corvettes Metel, Sovetskaya GavanMPK-82MPK-107 and Ust-IlimskGrisha I/ Project 1124 class anti-submarine corvette Kholmsk, and Nanuchka III / Project 12341 Ovod-1 class corvettes IneyMorozRazliv and Smerchas well as Ropucha / Project 775 class landing ship Admiral Nevelskoy. The listed ships come from all the main bases of the Pacific Fleet.

Artillery forces of Russia’s mechanized brigade-sized 4th Military Base (occupied Tskhinvali Region, Georgia) of the 58th Army (HQ in Vladikavkaz, Republic of North Ossetia-Alania) engaged in an exercise. About 1,000 Russian troops, and armed groups of the Tskhinvali proxy regime, participated.

Russian artillery troops drilling in Tskhinvali Region. Source: Southern Military District

Artillery units of the Russian occupation forces in Georgia’s another occupied region Abkhazia also conducted an exercise, with over 500 participating troops. Russian forces in the region staged a UAV exercise as well. Russian troops in occupied Abkhazia belong to the mechanized brigade-sized 7th Military Base of the 49th Army (HQ in Stavropol, Stavropol Krai).

Recon forces of the Black Sea Fleet’s 22nd Army Corps (HQ in Simferopol, Russian-occupied Crimea, Ukraine), and troops of the 126th Coastal Defense Brigade (Perevalne, Russian-occupied Crimea, Ukraine), which also belongs to the 22nd Army Corps, staged exercises in the occupied peninsula.



Crews of two submarines at the Murmansk-150 (Zaozersk) naval base of the Russian Northern Fleet have been put in quarantine as a result of exposure to the novel coronavirus. One of them is Oscar II / Project 949A Antey class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine Orel. The identity of another submarine is unknown at the time of writing.

Over 2,500 Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Protection troops in the Western and Central Military Districts launched preparation to fight the novel coronavirus in Russia. In the Western Military District, Russian Defense Ministry established specialized groups” to fight the virus in Russia’s four administrative regions (Leningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Kursk and Voronezh Oblasts) that include medical, engineer and military police troops, along with the NBC Protection forces. The Central Military District’s NBC Protection troops established mobile sanitary-epidemic surveillance posts” in Novosibirsk, Samara, Saratov, Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk Oblasts. Also, six “operational headquarters have been created across the District’s territory.

Russian Defense Ministry plans to build 16 “military medical centers” during the spring of 2020. Eight are supposed to be established by 30 April, and eight more – by 15 May. The centers will be located in all four of Russia’s military districts, and are overall to have 1,600 hospital beds. Six centers will be located in the Western Military District, three in the Southern and Central districts each, and four – in the Eastern Military District.


*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.