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 – According to reports that emerged from north-eastern Syria during the week of 7-13 December 2020, Russians have established posts near the Kurdish-controlled town of Ayn Issa. Besides, Russian troops were noted in the Assad regime-controlled city of Al-Bukamal, which is known for heavy presence of armed groups aligned with Iran. Russian air force conducted several strikes in the Idlib region during the week.

War in Ukraine – Two Ukrainian soldiers were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces on the Donbass frontline on 12 December 2020.

Russia in Africa – As we reported in Issue 62 of this digest, Sudan has granted Russia a naval base in Port Sudan. According to the latest information, the base has been granted to Russia for 25 years, with additional automatic 10-year prolongations, unless either side ends the arrangement after the initial 25-year or subsequent 10-year periods.

On 7 December 2020, reports came out that on 5 December Germany’s fighters had intercepted a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft north of Estonia. A Russian Su-30 fighter intercepted planes from the U.S. and France over the Black Sea on 7 December.MiG-31 fighter intercepted an American plane over the Bering Sea on 11 December.

A German fighter and a Russian Il-20


Structural Changes

A new Special Forces unit has been established under the 41st Army (HQ in Novosibirsk) command.

Following the news about the plans to establish a mechanized division next year in the Kaliningrad Oblast, reported in the previous issue of this digest, Russians have now stated their intention to station a battalion of Bastion-P anti-ship missile systems in Kaliningrad, also in 2021.

In 2021, Russians also plan to establish a battalion of Bal anti-ship missile systems that will cover Russian naval bases in Kronshtadt and Saint Petersburg.

A new engineer regiment has been established in the 41st Army (HQ in Novosibirsk). The regiment is based in Ishim, Tyumen Oblast.


Rearmament and Modernization

The 568th Anti-Aircraft Regiment (Samara) that belongs to the 76th Air Defense Division (HQ in Samara) of the 14th Air and Air Defense Forces Army (HQ in Yekaterinburg) has received S-400 surface-to-air missile systems instead of the S-300PS systems.



Russian armed forces conducted a strategic exercise that involved ballistic missile launches from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome and from the Northern Fleet’s Delta IV / Project 667BDRM Delfin class Karelia nuclear ballistic missile submarine. The exercise also involved a Tu-160 heavy strategic bomber from the Engels air base (Saratov Oblast), and a Tu-95MS strategic bomber from the Ukrainka air base (Amur Oblast).

Forces of the 11th Air and Air Defense Forces Army (HQ in Khabarovsk) conducted a simultaneous bombing exercise in Primorsky, Khabarovsk and Zabaykalsky Krais. Su-34 fighter-bombers, Su-24 attack aircraft and Su-25 close air support aircraft were involved.

About 500 Russian troops of the 22nd Army Corps (HQ in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine) took part in an infantry exercise held in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Crimea.

A joint exercise of the Special Forces of Uzbekistan and Russia’s Central Military District was held in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistani SF troops during the joint exercise opening ceremony


Arms Exports

Russians reported that Turkey has completed all payments for the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, and that the contract regarding their deliveries from Russia has been fulfilled.


*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.