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 – One Ukrainian soldier was killed and ten were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces in Donbass during the week of 20-26 April 2020. Shooting on the frontline occurred every day of the week.

War in Syria – Russian Novaya Gazeta newspaper published an investigation of war crimes (torture and murder) committed by the Wagner mercenaries in June 2017, in the area of Shaer gas field in Syria.

Stanislav Dychko (b. 1990) – a Russian mercenary accused of war crimes by the Novaya Gazeta investigation. Source: Novaya Gazeta

Russia in Africa – Libya’s government accused the Wagner group of committing a chemical attack in Salah al-Din area, on the southern outskirts of Tripoli.

According to the Western Military District, on 24 April, two of the Baltic Fleet’s Su-27 fighters intercepted Belgium’s single F-16 fighter over the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea.

The Pacific Fleet’s Improved Yug / Project 862.2 class intelligence collection ship Marshal Gelovani visited the port of Townswille in the north-eastern Australia, in the week of 20-26 April. As we reported in Issue 34 of this digest, in the first half of April 2020 Marshal Gelovani had been in the D’Urville Sea, near Adélie Land in East Antarctica.


Structural Changes

Russian sources mentioned existence of a coastal missile battalion on the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Russian Arctic. The battalion, located at a Russian base on the Alexandra Land island, is armed with the Bastion-P mobile coastal defense missile systems. The existence of the Bastion-P systems on the Franz Josef Land had been reported in November 2019, but the latest information specifically states that the Bastion-P unit in question is a battalion.

Bastion-P systems on the Franz Josef Land, April 2020. Source: Russian Defense Ministry, from


Military Strategy

The New York Times published a material about Russia’s work on developing the capability “to choke off vital international communication channels,” through sabotage of seabed cables.


Rearmament and Modernization

Russia has stopped development of the Project 23560 Lider class of destroyers and the Project 22350M class of frigates. The two classes were supposed to be a part of the future Russian navy.

The Eastern Military District has received Nebo-M and Podlet mobile air and missile defense radars.

The 144th Mechanized Division (HQ in Yelnya, Smolensk Oblast) of the 20th Army (HQ in Voronezh) has received 5.5 thousand of the new AK-12 assault rifles. Moscow intends to supply about 40 thousand of the AK-12s to its armed forces before the end of 2020.

Russian Defense Ministry formally accepted the first batch of three Orion recon and attack UAVs. As reported in Issue 13 of this digest, Russian air force had already been using the Orion UAVs experimentally.

Orion UAV. Source: TASS



Russian Airborne Troops (VDV) held a parachute landing exercise on the Franz Josef Land archipelago (specifically, on the Alexandra Land island). The jumps were conducted from the Il-76 strategic airlifters of the Military Transport Aviation Command.

Naval infantry units of the Black Sea Fleet conducted an exercise in occupied Crimea, Ukraine.



According to the official numbers released by the Russian Defense Ministry, as of 26 April 2020, 874 active servicemen of the Russian armed forces tested positive for the novel coronavirus, along with 245 members of the armed forces’ civilian personnel, and 779 students of Russian military academies.

Completion of repairs on four Black Sea Fleet warships has been delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ships in question include: Bora / Dergach / Project 1239 class missile corvettes Bora and SamumTarantul / Project 12417 class missile corvette R-71 Shuyaand Grisha III/ Project 1124M class anti-submarine corvette Suzdalets


*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.