Author: David Batashvili

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.


Geostrategic Activities

War in Ukraine – Everyday shooting and clashes on the frontline in Ukraine’s Donbass region resulted in three Ukrainian soldiers killed and seven wounded in the week of 2-8 September 2019, according to the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation Press Center.

War in Ukraine – Russia and Ukraine exchanged 35 prisoners each. The prisoners released by Russia included 24 Ukrainian sailors captured in November 2018, during the Kerch Strait incident.

War in Ukraine – InformNapalm international volunteer community investigated the types of UAVs used by the Russian hybrid forces on the Donbass frontline. According to InformNapalm, their team has identified eight UAV types, with another type remaining unidentified at the time of writing.

Russian hybrid forces’ UAV types identified by InformNapalm. Source: InformNapalm website

War in Syria – In the week of 2-8 September 2019, Russian forces appeared to refrain from striking the Syrian rebels in the wider Idlib region, under the ceasefire declared on 31 August. Three Russian servicemen were killed and two were wounded as a result of mine explosions near Jurin village. While the Russian Defense Ministry denied the casualties, Russian media identified one of the deceased, while another source named all three.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced plans for holding joint naval drills with Russia in the Indian Ocean.

The Arctic Game – A group of the Northern Fleet ships, led by Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov, continued its Arctic expedition reported in the first and second issues of this digest. After leaving the port of Dudinka (on the Taymyr Peninsula in the extreme north of Krasnoyarsk Krai) on 3 September, the ships entered the Kara Sea on 6 September and continued the voyage in the north-eastern direction, along the coast of the Taymyr Peninsula.

Deputy chief of the German Navy, Vice Admiral Rainer Brinkmann, said regarding security threats in the Baltic Sea that “there is one main challenge and this challenge is Russia,” adding that NATO needed to “prevent the Baltic Sea from being a mare clausum [closed sea].”

On 8 September, an independent source reported arrival of Russian military personnel in Mozambique, naming towns of Mueda and Nacala in the north of the country. According to the source, Russians will help Mozambique fight its northern Islamist insurgents. While the author of this digest could not find corroborations of this information in other sources, there have been reports of Russia’s strategic engagement with Mozambique since at least early 2018. In August 2019, Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi signed energy and security deals with Vladimir Putin in Moscow.


Rearmament and Modernization

The 108th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment (based in Voronezh) received the newer S-300PM-2 surface-to-air missile systems. Prior to that, the regiment had been armed with S-300PM systems.

The 1st Tank Army (HQ in Bakovka, Moscow Oblast) completed receiving the modernized T-72B3M tanks.

T-72B3M tank. Source: Russian Exercises

Dolgorukiy / Project 955 Borei class nuclear ballistic missile submarine Knyaz Oleg, set to join the Russian navy in 2020, has been redirected from the Northern Fleet, where it was to be sent initially, to the Pacific Fleet. The Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky naval base will be the submarine’s home, once it joins the fleet.

The new Alexandrit / Project 12700 class minesweeper Ivan Antonov joined the Black Sea Fleet, after arrival to the Sevastopol naval base from the Baltic Sea.



Russia’s Astrakhan Oblast hosted the Joint CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] Air Defense System exercise. Besides the Russians, troops from ArmeniaBelarusKazakhstanKyrgyzstanTajikistan and Uzbekistan participated. The second stage of the exercise will be held in Kazakhstan on 9-13 September. The Russian Defense Ministry website highlighted the fact that Uzbekistan took part in the Joint CIS Air Defense System exercise for the first time after a long pause.

A mechanized battalion from Serbia took part in a military exercise in Leningrad Oblast, together with the elements of the 138th Mechanized Brigade (based in Kamenka, Leningrad Oblast) and other Russian units.

S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from the Russian occupation forces in Abkhazia, Georgia conducted an exercise in Astrakhan Oblast. Meanwhile, the mechanized forces of the Russian 7th Military Base (a unit analogous to a mechanized brigade, permanently based in Abkhazia) drilled in Abkhazia itself.

S-400 from the Russian forces in Abkhazia, Georgia during an exercise. Source: Russian Defense Ministry

In the occupied Crimea, Ukraine Russians conducted exercises of a locally based air unit, and of the Black Sea Fleet’s 126th Coastal Defense Brigade.


Arms Exports

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said that Russia was going to deliver S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to India within 18-19 months. Meanwhile, the director of the Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugaev announced that India had ordered Russian weaponry for USD 14.5 billion.


* 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.