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 Syria – Four U.S. troops reportedly suffered concussion after a Russian military vehicle rammed an American one in north-eastern Syriaon 25 August 2020. Russian troops participating in the incident were backed by a pair of helicopters flying overhead.

War in Syria – Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu suggested that Russia would send a new SapsanConvoy anti-UAV system to Syria for test use.

India has refused to participate in the major Russian Kavkaz-2020 exercise, set to be help in September. Officially the reason is difficulties caused by the ongoing pandemic. It is alleged, however, that Indians have reconsidered their participation in the exercise because of participation by the troops from India’s geopolitical adversaries China and Pakistan. India reportedly intended to take part in Kavkaz-2020 with two companies of its troops.

Russian Su-27 fighters intercepted Western military aircraft over the Baltic Sea on 24 and twice on 28 August 2020. Aircraft from the U.S.GermanyDenmark and Sweden were involved. Russian Su-27s intercepted U.S. planes over the Black Sea twice on 28 August. Russians also intercepted Norway’s planes over the Barents Sea on 25 and 26 August. U.S. fighters intercepted six (three sets of two) Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft near Alaska on 27 August. Britain’s fighters deployed in Lithuania intercepted a Russian Il-20M reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea on 24 August.

NATO reported that following one of the interceptions conducted by a Russian jet over the Baltic Sea on 28 August 2020, the involved Russian Su-27 fighter proceeded to enter Denmark’s air space over the island of Bornholm, committing “a significant violation.” NATO stated that Danish aircraft “were launched to counter the violation, however the violating Russian fighter turned back before interception.” It added that the “incident is the first of this kind for several years and indicates a new level of Russian provocative behavior.”

Two Russian planes, reportedly Il-38 maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, violated South Korea’s air defense identification zone. The incident occurred over the Sea of Japan on 28 August. A similar incident had occurred on 19 August 2020.

According to Azerbaijan, Russia has been intensively arming” Armenia since the armed clashes between the two South Caucasus nations in July 2020, with Il-76 strategic airlifters conducting flights between Russia and Armenia.


Rearmament and Modernization

According to the Russians, the S-500 surface-to-air missile system has entered acceptance trials.



Russian airborne reconnaissance and sniper troops took part in exercises on the territory of Belarus.

Russians in Belarus

Over 6,000 Russian troops took part in a major exercise of the 6th Army (HQ in Agalatovo, Leningrad Oblast) and the Baltic Fleet (HQ in Kaliningrad). The exercise was led by the commander of the Western Military District, taking place in Leningrad and Kaliningrad Oblasts, and in the Baltic Sea. It also involved the Gogland Island, located between the coasts of Finland and Estonia. Russians had established a new helicopter base on the island in 2019.

30 ships of the Pacific Fleet, its land forces and the naval aviation conducted an exercise spanning the waters of north-western Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Bering Sea, Kamchatka Peninsula and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. 3,000 troops and 20 aircraft also participated. During the exercise, the Pacific Fleet’s flagship, Slava / Project 1164 Atlant class guided missile cruiser Varyag and Oscar II / Project 949A Antey class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine Omsk fired anti-ship missiles in the Bering Sea. The exercise included firing in Chukotka by the Bastion-P mobile coastal defense missile systems. The Bastions had been delivered to the region by landing ships.

Russian naval aviation conducted simultaneous flights in various parts of Europe, Asia and the Arctic within the framework of the Ocean Shield-2020 exercises. 33 airplanes, 15 helicopters and UAVs took part, these assets belonging to the Northern Fleet, the Pacific Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet, and the Baltic Fleet.

The Northern Fleet forces taking part in the Arctic expedition held an exercise on the Taymyr Peninsula, led by the commander of the Northern Fleet. The Fleet’s naval infantry and the Russian Airborne Troops (VDV) took part, along with military aircraft including the Northern Fleet’s bomber jets and helicopters from the Western Military District and Central Military District.

The Black Sea Fleet’s 810th Naval Infantry Brigade (Sevastopol), 126th Coastal Defense Brigade (Perevalnoye/Perevalne), as well as landing ships and helicopters, conducted an exercise in occupied Crimea, Ukraine.

Russian multiple rocket launchers and grenade launcher troops conducted exercises in occupied Abkhazia, Georgia.

UAV forces of Russia and Belarus conducted a joint exercise in Russia’s Voronezh Oblast.

Troops from Russia and Algeria conducted a joint air defense exercise in Astrakhan Oblast.


Arms Exports

Belarus and Russia have signed a number of contracts regarding future deliveries of Russian BTR-82A armored personnel carriers, unspecified air defense systems and Mi-35M attack helicopters to Belarus.

Russia has signed contracts to supply unspecified military products to Laos and Sudan.


*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.