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.

You can see all issues of Rondeli Russian Military Digest at this page. For your convenience, we have added the Digest Content Search that helps users find the digest’s issues containing information they need using key words and phrases.

For a comprehensive geographic view of the Russian military structure see our Interactive Map of the Russian Military Forces.


Geostrategic Activities

Following a Russian-brokered ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan, reached on the night of 9 November 2020, in the early hours of 10 November Russian troops were sent to Nagorno-Karabakh, with a peacekeeping mandate accepted by both sides of the conflict. The official number of troops in the Russian contingent is 1960. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, most of them used to serve in Syria. The bulk of the Russian forces belong to the 15th Mechanized Brigade (Roshchinsky, Samara Oblast) of the 2nd Army (HQ in Samara). Russians are also using the army aviation, including Mi-24 attack helicopters, as well as UAVs, and have sent to Karabakh their new Leer-3 electronic warfare system. By 15 November, Russians had 25 posts stationed in the part of Karabakh that remains under the Armenian control following the Azerbaijani victory in the war of 27 September-9 November 2020. The Russian troops have a mandate to stay in Karabakh for at least five years. They might stay indefinitely, however, unless either side requests their withdrawal at the end of the five-year term. With the deployment in Karabakh, Russia now has its troops stationed in all three nations of the South Caucasus. The force placed in the area that is critically sensitive for Azerbaijan and Armenia will be used by Moscow as a major lever to influence both.

Russian Defense Ministry’s 15 November map showing Russian posts in Karabakh

According to the claims published in the Russian media, about 500 of Russia’s Wagner group fighters were sent to Karabakh in early November 2020, during the last stage of the Armenian-Azerbaijani war that ended on the night of 9 November. The claims state that the Wagner fighters operated in northern Karabakh and contributed to halting the Azerbaijani advance in that area.

Russia in Africa – Russia has reached an agreement with Sudan to use a naval base in the country, in the city of Port Sudan on the Red Sea, strategically located between the Suez Canal and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. Upper limits of Russian deployments at the base according to the agreement are four naval ships and 300 troops.

War in Syria – Russian air force conducted a number of strikes in the Syrian rebel-held Idlib region in the week of 9-15 November 2020. Besides, according to reports in various sources, on 13 November a Russian warship in the Mediterranean launched missiles targeting area to the west of the Idlib city. Russian warships reportedly operating in the Mediterranean as of early November 2020 included Admiral Grigorovich / Project 11356P/M class frigate Admiral Essen and Buyan-M / Project 21631 class missile corvettes Ingushetia and Orekhovo-Zuyevo.  

War in Ukraine – One Ukrainian soldier was wounded by the Russian hybrid forces on the Donbass frontline on 11 November 2020, in one of the numerous ceasefire violations during the week of 9-15 November.

Japan’s fighters intercepted a Russian A-50 airborne early warning and control (AEW) aircraft over the Sea of Japan.


Rearmament and Modernization

The Baltic Fleet’s 841st Radio-electronic Warfare Center, near Kaliningrad, reportedly received new Divnomorye electronic warfare systems.

The Southern Military District began to receive first updated versions of the Ka-52 recon and attack helicopters.

Russian Defense Ministry received another regiment-sized batch of the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, the last in 2020.

First units of the new TOS-2 thermobaric multiple rocket launchers have been delivered to the Russian armed forces. The systems are now employed experimentally.