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

The CSIS think tank issued a report on Moscow’s use of mercenaries such as the Wagner group for its geostrategic purposes. According to the CSIS assessment, Russian mercenaries have been involved in “operations suspected or proven in as many as 30 countries across 4 continents” in recent years.

War in Syria – Russian air force conducted strikes in the Syrian rebel-held Idlib region during the week of 14-20 September 2020. Russian sources claimed that Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile system was also involved in the attacks. In the north-eastern Syria, following an announced deployment of U.S. reinforcements to the area, Russians sent additional forces to their base in Qamishli.

War in Libya – According to the Turkish sources, by the end of the week of 14-20 September, Russia sent about 400 additional Russian-trained Syrian mercenaries to serve on the side of the Russian-backed Haftar forces in Libya.

War in Ukraine – Five Ukrainian servicemen were wounded on the Donbass frontline during the week of 14-20 September. Four of them were injured by explosive devices, while another one was shot by the Russian hybrid forces in violation of the existing ceasefire.

Russians reported interceptions of the Western military aircraft over the Black Sea on 14151617 and 18 September 2020. The intercepted planes reportedly where from the U.S. and BritainSu-27 and Su-30 fighters were involved from the Russian side. Similar incidents were reported over the Baltic Sea on 15 and 17 September, with the U.S. and Sweden’s planes involved, along with the Russian Su-27. Interceptions of the U.S. bombers over the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk occurred on 15 and 17 September, involving Russian MiG-31 interceptors and Su-35S fighters. British fighters intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft over the North Sea on 17 September. Italy’s fighters currently deployed in Šiauliai, Lithuania, intercepted a Russian Il-20M reconnaissance aircraft escorted by a Su-27 fighter over the Baltic Sea.

picture of Tu-142 taken by the British Royal Air Force

The Arctic Game – A group of the Northern Fleet ships on an Arctic expedition since 5 August, including Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyer Severomorsk and Ropucha / Project 775 class landing ship Kondopoga, left the port of Tiksi on the Laptev Sea and, after crossing the East Siberian Sea, was operating in the Chukchi Sea between the Chukchi Peninsula and Alaska.

Russian ships on the Arctic expedition


Rearmament and Modernization

Russian Defense Ministry reportedly decided to cancel contracts for two planned Project 22800 Karakurt class corvettes. The planned ships were designated for the Pacific Fleet.

The 8th Artillery Regiment (Simferopol and Perevalnoye/Perevalne) of the Black Sea Fleet’s 22nd Army Corps (HQ in Simferopol) in occupied Crimea, Ukraine, reportedly received Msta-B towed howitzers.



Troops from ArmeniaBelarusChinaMyanmar and Pakistan arrived in Russia for the Kavkaz-2020 exercise, held on 21-26 September 2020.

The joint Russian-Belarusian Slavic Brotherhood 2020 exercise was launched in Brest Oblast, in the western Belarus, on 14 September 2020. Units from the 76th Air Assault Division (HQ in Pskov) of the Russian Airborne Troops (VDV) and the Belarusian Special Forces were taking part. Russian ambassador to Belarus called the exercise a response to the foreign attempts to destabilize Belarus.

Airborne landing during Slavic Brotherhood 2020 exercise

Large-scale exercises of the Russian Signal Troops were held in the Western Military District and the Central Military District. 2,000 troops in eight administrative regions of the central and western Russia were involved, along with 6,000 troops in the Volga region, Ural, Siberia and Tajikistan.

S-400 surface-to-air missile systems based in occupied Abkhazia, Georgia held an exercise in Russia’s Astrakhan Oblast. Other Russian air defense troops held anti-UAV drills in Abkhazia. Russian snipers in Georgia’s occupied Tskhinvali Region also held an anti-UAV exercise. Another Russian exercise in Tskhinvali Region involved artillery forces.


Arms Exports

China has reportedly acquired a batch of Russian Mi-8AMTSh transport and attack helicopters.


*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.