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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A note to readersWhile normally this is a weekly publication, the present issue covers two weeks.


Geostrategic Activities

War in Ukraine – Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 20 were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces on the Donbass frontline during the week of 6-12 July 2020. Eight Ukrainians were wounded in the week of 29 June-5 July. Shooting on the frontline occurred every day during the two weeks.

War in Syria – According to a report by the United Nations investigators, attacks by the Assad regime military and the Russian air force conducted during the battles in the Idlib region “decimated civilian infrastructure, depopulated towns and villages, and claimed the lives of hundreds of Syrian women, men and children,” amounting to war crimes.

War in Libya – Russia’s Wagner group mercenaries reportedly suffered casualties when a Pantsir air defense system was destroyed by a UAV at the Jufra air base.

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative stated that the Russian-led CSTO military alliance had sent an invitation to join it to Mongolia, claiming that Mongolian leadership “was interested” to get the invitation.

Several air intercepts occurred between the NATO and Russian forces. Britain’s fighters based in Lithuania intercepted a Russian Il-78 aerial refueling tanker off the Baltic Sea coast on 1 July. NATO aircraft including Italy’s F-35 jets currently based in Iceland scrambled on 3 July to intercept Russian planes, including Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, MiG-31 interceptors, and an Il-78, in the north-eastern Atlantic. Russian air force jets intercepted U.S. aircraft over the Black Sea on 29 June and 1 July, and over the Sea of Japan on 11 July. Russian aircraft involved in these intercepts included Su-35S and Su-27 fighters, and MiG-31BM interceptors.


Structural Changes

Russian armed forces have completed the formation of a Special Forces unit within the 20th Army (HQ in Voronezh). The new unit is based in Voronezh. While the latest information does not clarify the size of the SF unit, a report from the late 2018, when the unit’s formation had been launched, called it a strengthened company.


Rearmament and Modernization

The 3rd Mechanized Division (HQ in Boguchar, Voronezh Oblast) of the 20th Army (HQ in Voronezh) received over 1,500 modernized AK-74M assault rifles.



Over 4,000 troops from the artillery and missile units of the 58th Army (HQ in Vladikavkaz, Republic of North Ossetia-Alania) conducted drills in the Russian North Caucasus and occupied Tskhinvali Region, Georgia.

Russian mechanized forces in Georgia’s occupied Tskhinvali Region conducted a major exercise. Over 3,500 troops participated, while Tskhinvali proxy regime’s forces were also involved. One of the elements of the exercise was a tactical helicopter landing operation.

Russian forces based in occupied Abkhazia, Georgia, also conducted an exercise together with the local proxy regime’s forces. Over 2,000 Russian troops participated.

Russian Defense Ministry reported the intensification of UAV exercises in occupied Abkhazia, Georgia, in 2020.

500 ground troops from the Russian occupation forces in Crimea, Ukraine conducted a tactical exercise, while Russian air force exercised in the sky over the occupied peninsula.

Russian forces during the exercise in Crimea, Ukraine

The Northern Fleet conducted large-scale war games in the Barents Sea. About 30 vessels participated, including Kirov / Project 1144 Orlan class heavy guided missile cruiser Pyotr Velikiy and Slava / Project 1164 Atlant class guided missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov. Over 20 aircraft, including Tu-22M3 long-range strategic bombers, as well as air defense and coastal missile forces, also participated in the exercise.

Russian naval and air forces conducted a joint exercise with the Assad regime’s troops near the Tartus naval base in Syria.


Arms Exports

India’s Ministry of Defense has approved the procurement of 21 MiG-29 and 12 Su-30MKI fighters from Russia.


*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