Author: David Batashvili, Research Fellow at the 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

Russia in Africa – According to the Libyan government, about 1,600 Wagner mercenaries retreated from north-western Libya, following a string of defeats suffered in the area by the forces of the rebel leader Khalifa Haftar, whom Russians support in the local civil war.

Russia in Africa – The U.S. military stated that Russian military personnel had flown MiG-29 fighters and Su-24 attack aircraft to Libya. The transferring aircraft were escorted by the other Russian fighter jets. The U.S. military’s Africa Command “said it assessed that Russia had flown fighter jets to Libya via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside” Haftar’s rebel forces, adding that ”the jets were repainted in Syria to remove Russian Federation Air Force markings.” The Russian aircraft “first landed in Tobruk, in eastern Libya, and then flew to Jufra in central Libya.” The number of the unmarked Russian military aircraft sent to Libya, according to the Americans, is at least 14. According to the U.S. Africa Command’s Intelligence Directorate, “the Russian aircrafts’ flight path originated in Russia and passed through Iran and Syria before reaching Libya.”

The U.S. Africa Command’s photo of the transferred Russian aircraft at the Jufra airfield

Russia in Africa – Deputy Director of U.S. Africa Command’s Intelligence Directorate, Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, voiced concerns regarding geostrategic implications of Russia’s military presence in Libya. According to the general, “if Russia secures a permanent position in Libya and, worse, deploys long-range missile systems, it will be a game changer for Europe, NATO and many Western nations,”

War in Ukraine – Russian hybrid forces killed one Ukrainian military serviceman, and wounded another, on the Donbass frontline, during the week of 25-31 May 2020. Shooting occurred on the frontline every day of the week.

The Russian military is set to get additional facilities and maritime access for its bases in Syria, from the Assad regime.

The Assad regime in Syria said it had received a batch of MiG-29 fighters from Russia.

The U.S. Navy reported “an unsafe and unprofessional” intercept of its P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft by the Russian military aircraft in the international waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The intercept was conducted by two Russian Su-35 fighters on 26 May 2020, and occurred “for the third time in two months.” Previous incidents had been reported in one of the previous issues of this digest.

Russians reported an intercept by their Su-27P and Su-30SM fighters of two U.S. B-1B heavy bombers over the international waters of the Black Sea, on 29 May 2020. In a separate incident on 29 May, Russian Su-30SM fighters intercepted Britain’s Sentinel R1 surveillance aircraft, also over the Black Sea.


Structural Changes

Russians have established an additional naval infantry battalion within the Caspian Flotilla’s 177th Naval Infantry Regiment (Kaspiysk, Republic of Dagestan and Astrakhan, Astrakhan Oblast). Formation of the new battalion, which contains an air assault company in addition to two naval infantry ones, is set to be completed by the end of 2020. The 177th Regiment had already included two naval infantry battalions.


Rearmament and Modernization

Project 955A Borei-A class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Knyaz Vladimir joined the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet on 28 May 2020.

Russian Airborne Troops (VDV) have received over 10 thousand new AK-12 assault rifles.

Russian armed forces received another batch of the 2S12A Sani heavy mortars.

2S12A Sani heavy mortars towed by a truck

The first batch of the new Koalitsiya-SV self-propelled guns delivered to the Russian armed forces was sent to the Central Military District and consisted of eight guns. Unofficial sources suggest it could have been sent to the 400th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment of the 41st Army’s (HQ in Novosibirsk) 90th Tank Division (HQ in Chebarkul, Chelyabinsk Oblast). Previous reports in the Russian media, suggesting the batch consisted of ten guns and was sent to the Western Military District, turned out to be incorrect.



Russian forces based in occupied Crimea, Ukraine, conducted a naval landing exercise.


*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.