Author: David Batashvili, Research Fellow at Rondeli Foundation

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.

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Geostrategic Activities

War in Ukraine – Six Ukrainian soldiers were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces during the week of 13-19 April 2020. Firing incidents on the Donbass frontline occurred every day of the week.

Russia in Africa – Reports have emerged that Russia recruited a group of former Syrian rebels residing in the Assad-controlled territory to participate in the war in Libya on the side of the rebel leader Khalifa Haftar. On 13 April 2020, the recruited fighters reportedly left for a base in Homs, from where they were to be deployed to Libya under direction of the Wagner group.

Former Syrian rebels recruited by Russia. Source: Elizabeth Tsurkov

On 19 April 2020, in the international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea, a Russian Su-35 fighter conducted an intercept of a U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft that was characterized by the Americans as “unsafe and unprofessional due to the Su-35 conducting high-speed, high-powered maneuver that decreased aircraft separation to within 25 feet, directly in front of the P-8A, exposing the U.S. aircraft to wake turbulence and jet exhaust.” A similar incident had occurred on 15 April.

Belgium’s air force reported on 18 April that “NATO Baltic Air Policing mission had a busy week protecting the integrity of the Alliance airspace in the Baltic region,” with the Belgian F-16 fighters conducting five scrambles and intercepting a variety of Russian aircraft, including, among others, Su-24, Su-27, Tu-134 and An-26 aircraft.


Rearmament and Modernization

T-90A tanks presently in the Russian occupation forces’ 7th Military Base (Gudauta, occupied Abkhazia, Georgia) of the 49th Army (HQ in Stavropol) will be replaced in the 7th Base’s armament with the T-72B3 tanks. The T-90As from Abkhazia will undergo modernization into T-90M tanks, and then sent to units of the Western Military District. The Russian Defense Ministry plans to complete the transfer of the 7th Base to the T-72B3 tanks in the summer of 2020.

T-90A tanks on the day of their arrival to occupied Gudauta, Georgia, in 2009. Source:

Moscow is also sending newly produced T-90M tanks to the Western Military District. One batch of these tanks has already been delivered to the tank battalion of the 1st Mechanized Regiment (Kalininets, Moscow Oblast) that belongs to the 2nd Mechanized Division (HQ also in Kalininets) of the 1st Tank Army (HQ in Bakovka, Moscow Oblast).

Project 20183 class special purpose ship Akademik Aleksandrov, which joined the Northern Fleet in early March 2020, was reportedly “built on an order from the Main Directorate for Deep Sea Research, the top secret unit directly subordinated to the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.”

Russian military received the first modernized 2S7M Malka / Pion heavy self-propelled gun.



Russia reportedly carried out a test of the Nudol anti-satellite missile system on 15 April 2020. The missile was reportedly launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Nudol is a mobile system capable of intercepting satellites in low-earth orbit. Russia had already conducted seven tests the Nudol system between 2014-2018.



Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the postponement of the 9 May victory parade due to the COVID-19 crisis in Russia. The new date of the parade is unclear at the time of writing. The Russian military will quarantine everyone involved in rehearsals of the parade for two weeks, after some of the participants tested positive for the novel coronavirus. About 15,000 troops were estimated to be participating in the victory parade rehearsals. As reported in Issue 33 of this digest, thousands of Russian troops were packed together on the Red Square during the rehearsals.

46 students and employees of the Russian military schools tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The number includes 31 cases in the Nakhimov naval schools in Moscow, and another 15 in Tyumen Higher Military Engineering Command School.

Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Protection troops of the Black Sea Fleet from occupied Crimea, Ukrainewent to occupied Abkhazia, Georgia, to help the local fight against the COVID-19.