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

War in Ukraine – Shooting on the Donbass frontline in Ukraine occurred every day during the week of 1-7 June 2020. 11 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces during the week.

War in Syria – Russians conducted air strikes in the Syrian rebel-controlled Idlib region, on 2 and 3 June 2020. Meanwhile, U.S. military blocked the movement of a Russian military patrol towards the city of Al-Malikiyah (Derik) in north-eastern Syria. Other reports suggest that the Russian patrol was turned back by the Kurds.

War in Libya – Russian-backed forces of the rebel leader Khalifa Haftar continued to suffer defeats in western Libya in the week of 1-7 June 2020, retreating along with Russia’s own Wagner group mercenaries.

War in Libya – Reuters reported that “a Russian drive to recruit Syrians to fight in Libya for militia leader Khalifa Haftar accelerated in May when hundreds of mercenaries were signed up.” Reportedly, “Wagner Group is conducting the hiring with Russian army supervision.” According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “more than 900 Syrians were recruited by Russia to fight in Libya in May.” Meanwhile, Russia continued to supply its forces in Libya with weapons, with the cargo vessel Alexander Tvardovskiy delivering them to Benghazi. Besides, Russian-produced Buk medium-range surface-to-air missile systems were reportedly spotted at the Jufra air base that is controlled by Haftar’s forces at the present time of writing. It has not been specifically stated yet where the Buk systems came from. maps showing some of the latest losses of the Russian-backed forces in Libya

Britain’s Typhoon fighters, based in Lithuania as a part of the NATO air policing mission, scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea on 2 and 4 June. Russian aircraft reportedly involved in the incidents were an Il-20 reconnaissance plane on 2 June, and an Il-20 along with two Su-27 fighters on 4 June.

The Black Sea Fleet’s Admiral Grigorovich / Project 11356P/M class guided missile frigate Admiral Grigorovich, presently operating in the Indian Ocean on a long-range mission, stopped at Colombo, Sri Lanka, during the week of 1-7 June.


Structural Changes

The Northern Fleet’s status as a separate command similar in status to a Russian military district will become official from 1 January 2021, after Vladimir Putin signed a decree to this effect on 5 June 2020. The new command will include the territories of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk Oblasts, Komi Republic, and Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

The Western Military District press service announced that a mechanized brigade had joined the 1st Tank Army (HQ in Bakovka, Moscow Oblast). The announced location and the Russian formal titulature of the brigade mean that Russians are talking about the 27th Mechanized Brigade (based in the south-western outskirts of the city of Moscow). The brigade has long been in existence, and, according to previous information from open sources, already belonged to the 1st Tank Army. Irrespective of the question of the previous official belonging of the 27th Mechanized Brigade to the 1st Tank Army, neither the structure nor the location of this long-existing brigade has changed according to the official Russian information. Nevertheless, some Russian reports (including by the government-controlled TASS news agency) misleadingly claimed that “Russia increases defensive forces on the western strategic direction” [in Russian: Россия наращивает силы для обеспечения обороны на западном стратегическом направлении]. Some western reporting, such as an article in Newsweek, seemed to buy the notion that “Russia sends more troops west,” which is not the case in the context of the 27th Brigade according to the Russian sources’ information available at the time of writing.


Rearmament and Modernization

A batch of the modernized 2S19M1 Msta-S self-propelled howitzers was delivered to the Russian Ministry of Defense. 

Msta-S self-propelled howitzer

Two air defense battalions of the 37th Mechanized Brigade (Kyakhta, Republic of Buryatia), which belongs to the 36th Army (HQ in Ulan-Ude, Republic of Buryatia) in the Eastern Military District, will train to use new 9K333 Verba man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), which are to be supplied to the Russian troops in the future.



According to the Russians, they have created a space segment of a missile attack early warning system consisting of four Tundra type satellites.



The Black Sea Fleet announced the launch of major naval drills on 2 June 2020, saying that 37 vessels were participating.


*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.