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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A note to readers: The present issue covers two weeks.


Geostrategic Activities

War in Ukraine – Six Ukrainian servicemen were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces on the Donbas frontline during the week of 17-23 May 2021. One was killed and another one was wounded during the week of 10-16 May.

War in Syria – Russian air force conducted air strikes in the Syrian rebel-controlled Idlib region on 12 and 16 May 2021. In north-eastern Syria, Russian sources reported on 13 May that Russian troops had blocked movement of a U.S. military column consisting of six vehicles.

Russia in Africa – Russians have delivered a third batch of small arms to the armed forces of the Central African Republic (CAR) including 5,000 AK assault rifles among other weapons. According to another report, on 21 May 2021, Russians also delivered Mi-24V and Mi-8MT helicopters to the CAR.

The Russian government has approved the project of a joint air defense system with Tajikistan.

Russian fighters intercepted France’s military planes over the Black Sea on 1011 and 12 May 2021. Su-27 and Su-30 fighters were engaged in these incidents from the Russian side. A plane from Norway was intercepted by a Russian MiG-31 over the Barents Sea on 11 May. U.S. bomber was intercepted by a Su-27 over the Baltic Sea on 19 May.

Italy’s fighter operating from Estonia intercepted a Russian An-12 transport aircraft over the Baltic Sea on 14 May 2021.

The Pacific Fleet’s Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Tributs, on a long-range voyage in the Indo-Pacific region, visited Singapore on 11-13 May 2021. As we reported in the previous issue of this digest, two other groups of the Pacific Fleet’s warships also operate in the Indo-Pacific as of May 2021.

Admiral Tributs

The Black Sea Fleet’s Admiral Grigorovich / Project 11356P/M class guided missile frigate Admiral Grigorovich which was operating in the Indian Ocean basin in February 2021 had returned to the Black Sea by May 2021.

The delivery of Russian T-72B1MS tanks and BRDM-2MS amphibious armored patrol cars (30 vehicles of each type) to Serbia, reported in the previous issue of this digest in the Arms Exports category, was in fact a donation under the military aid framework.


Structural Changes

Russian sources have disclosed new details regarding the structure of the 18th Mechanized Division, established in Kaliningrad Oblast on 1 December 2020. According to the latest information, the former 79th Mechanized Brigade has been transformed into the 79th Mechanized Regiment and a number of other units including an independent reconnaissance battalion while the 275th Mechanized Regiment and the 280th Mechanized Regiment have been newly established. Other units included in the 18th Division reportedly are the 11th Tank Regiment (Gusev) and the 22nd Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment (Kaliningrad). The 7th Mechanized Regiment (Kaliningrad), on the other hand, is not to become a part of the 18th Division.

A new NBC Protection Regiment has been established within the 49th Army (HQ in Stavropol). The regiment reportedly includes a flamethrower unit. Normally Russian NBC protection regiments include a flamethrower battalion that has, among other equipment, three thermobaric multiple rocket launchers.

Anti-UAV detachments have been created within Russian Naval Infantry units. The detachments reportedly are armed with electronic warfare equipment and sniper rifles.


Rearmament and Modernization

One of the anti-aircraft missile regiments in Krasnodar Krai has begun rearmament with the new S-350 surface-to-air missile systems. It is possible that the regiment in question is the 1721st Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment (Sochi, Krasnodar Krai) of the 51st Air Defense Division (HQ in Rostov-on-Don), the 4th Air and Air Defense Forces Army (HQ in Rostov-on-Don) armed with Buk-M1 medium-range surface-to-air missile systems.


The 7th Mechanized Regiment (Kaliningrad) of the Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps (HQ in Kaliningrad) received over 30 BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles.

Russian military forces have received the first batch of the modernized 2S3M2 Akatsiya 152.4 mm self-propelled guns.



Russian and Serbian Special Forces held a joint exercise in Serbia. About 200 Russian troops participated.

Russian Defense Ministry photo from the exercise in Serbia

Naval forces of Kazakhstan and Russia’s Caspian Flotilla held a joint exercise in the Caspian Sea.

Reconnaissance troops of the Russian occupation forces in Abkhazia, Georgia held and exercise.


Arms Exports

Deliveries of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to India are to start in October-December 2021.


*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.