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 – Shooting continued on the Donbass frontline throughout the week of 23-29 September. Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and seven were wounded as a result of the Russian hybrid forces’ activities, according to the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation Press Center.

Russia is continuing its military entrenchment in Syria, with new development of the Khmeimim air base and the Tartus naval base. In Khmeimim, Russia is “rebuilding a second landing strip to allow the facility to serve more aircraft,” while setting up “new buildings to house aircraft at the site that will defend against drone attacks.” In Tartus, Russians “unveiled a new repair and maintenance facility” thatis set to start functioning on 15 October 2019.

Russian A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft landing at Khmeimim air base. Source:

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov voiced displeasure about the refusal of Belarus to host a Russian air base on its territory, referring to it as “an unpleasant episode”.

A group of Russian military specialists arrived in Caracas in two airplanes, in order to “carry out maintenance on Russian military hardware” sold to Venezuela.

Norwegian online newspaper reported activities of the Russian Special Forces tactical groups in Norway – on both the country’s mainland and the Svalbard archipelago. According to the newspaper, Russians have performed reconnaissance of key objects and critical infrastructure.

According to Bloomberg, more than 100 mercenaries from the Kremlin’s Wagner group “arrived at a forward base in Libya in the first week of September to support eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar’s assault on the capital Tripoli.” Bloomberg reports that “a Russian mercenary commander also confirmed that Wagner contractors were fighting in Libya, and said that some had been killed in action there.”

Following the previous information about the arrival of the Russian military personnel in northern Mozambique, reported in Issue 5 of this digest, last week an An-140-100 transport aircraft from the Russian 224th Air Detachment delivered military equipment to the town of Nacala. Notably, this is one of the two towns in northern Mozambique that were referred to in our previous report.

Russian An-124-100 transport aircraft offloading military equipment in Nacala, northern Mozambique. Source:

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stated that in September 2019, Russia had delivered the second shipment of free military equipment to the armed forces of the Central African Republic.

The Arctic Game – Russian armed forces conducted their first firing from the Bastion-P mobile coastal defense missile system on the Chukotka Peninsula. The target was situated on the strategic maritime Northern Sea Route. The Bastion-P system used on Chukotka belongs to the forces of the Pacific Fleet. The Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta stressed in its reporting that “when on Chukotka, the Bastion system can hit a target at any spot of the eastern portion of the Northern Sea Route.”

Bastion-P anti-ship system firing on Chukotka. Source:

The Arctic Game –  On 29 September, a group of the Russian Northern Fleet ships completed their Arctic expedition, reported on in several previous issues of this digest, and returned to the Fleet’s Severomorsk naval base. The group was led by the Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov.

Estonia reported a violation of its air space by a Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber that occurred on 23 September.


Structural Changes

Russians are going to establish a new long-range recon UAV unit at the air base in Shatalovo, Smolensk Oblast. The unit will be equipped with the Forpost-R type drones, with plans to later rearm it with the Altius-U type UAVs. Shatalovo air base is located about 47 kilometers from Russia’s border with Belarus and about 223 kilometers from the border with Ukraine.


Rearmament and Modernization

Russians are completing the re-equipment of their 2nd Mixed Aviation Regiment (at Shagol air base in Chelyabinsk), that belongs to the 21st Mixed Aviation Division (HQ in Chelyabinsk) of the 14th Air and Air Defense Forces Army (HQ in Yekaterinburg), with Su-34 fighter-bombers.

Su-34 fighter-bomber. Source: Central Military District press service

The Russian military has begun purchasing the modernized T-90M type tanks for its mechanized and tank units.



Russian Space Forces launched a rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome (Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast), with a satellite of the Russian Defense Ministry. The satellite was assigned the number Cosmos-2541.



13,000 troops of the Southern Military District’s artillery units drilled at 19 different firing ranges.

Russian troops of the 102nd Military Base (a mechanized brigade-sized Russian unit in Gyumri, Armenia) conducted a joint exercise with Armenian troops.

Russian air and airborne units based in the occupied Crimea, Ukraine conducted exercises on the peninsula.


Arms Exports

India has paid for its order of two Admiral Grigorovich / Project 11356 class frigates that are to be built for it in Russia.



Explosions occurred at an ammunition depot of the Russian hybrid forces in the occupied city of Donetsk, Ukraine.

Ammunition explodes in Donetsk. Source: Censor.NET


* 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.