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

In the second quarter of September 2021, major Russian military exercises were held near or within borders of every neighbor of Russia in the geographic space between and including the Arctic seas and Georgia. Zapad-2021 exercise was accompanied by other exercises involving many thousands of troops, held by the Northern Fleet and the Southern Military District.

Belarus Defense Ministry reported on 9 September that Russian air and air defense forces began to serve with the “joint military training center” together with the Belarusian forces. While the center itself is located in Grodno (Belarus), Russian Su-30SM fighters will serve at the air base in Baranovichi (Brest Oblast)This new state of affairs means that Russia has now accomplished its long-standing objective of gaining an air base in Belarus.

War in Ukraine – Four Ukrainian military service members were killed and 21 were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces on the Donbas frontline during the week of 6-12 September 2021.

War in Syria – Russian air force conducted strikes in the Syrian rebel-held Idlib region every day in the period of 6-9 September 2021.

A Russian MiG-31BM fighter intercepted a military plane from Norway over the Barents Sea on 11 September 2021.

Russia gifted to Tajikistan twelve BRDM-2M armored scout cars along with small arms and other equipment.


Military Strategy

On 6 September 2021, Russian Defense Ministry announced its decision to increase the number of military reservists.

Rearmament and Modernization

12.7mm caliber NSV heavy machine guns were delivered to the 201st Military Base (mechanized division with HQ in Dushanbe, Tajikistan).

First batch of eight Typhoonyonok armored vehicles was delivered to the 2nd Army (HQ in Samara) and the 41st Army (HQ in Novosibirsk) of the Central Military District.



Russian Soyuz-2.1v rocket delivered a military satellite to orbit after launching from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome (Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast) on 9 September 2021Reportedly, it is an optical intelligence satellite Cosmos-2551, of a new Razbeg type.



Massive Zapad-2021 exercise was launched by the Russian and Belarusian armed forces on 9 September. The exercise reportedly was to involve about 200,000 troops. According to Russian information, 12,800 of the participating troops were engaged in Belarus including 2,500 Russians. 2,000 troops from other countries also took part, including forces from ArmeniaIndiaKazakhstanKyrgyzstan and Mongolia, with groups of officers participating at headquarters coming from PakistanSri Lanka and Uzbekistan. The exercise took place in Belarus and Russia’s Voronezh, Smolensk, Kaliningrad, Pskov, Leningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, AstrakhanRyazan, Ivanovo and Saratov Oblasts, and in the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Fleet’s naval forces participated with corvettes, submarines and landing ships. It needs to be noted that Russian Defense Ministry information states that the return of Russian units to their permanent bases “after participation in the exercise is planned until the middle of October.”

Zapad-2021 in Belarus

In parallel with Zapad-2021 and on the same day it started, the Northern Fleet also launched an exercise involving 8,000 troops, about 120 aircraft of all kinds including UAVs, and 50 vessels (the number includes support ships). The exercise covers Murmansk Oblast, Barents, Kara and Laptev Seas, as well as Franz Joseph Land and New Siberian Islands archipelagoes and Taymyr Peninsula.

6,000 Southern Military District troops took part in exercises launched on 12 September in Volgograd Oblast, North Caucasus and occupied Tskhinvali Region (Georgia). Prior to that, another series of exercises was held by the Southern Military District with about 10,000 troops participating, in Rostov and Volgograd Oblasts, North Caucasus and occupied Crimea (Ukraine).

Russia-dominated CSTO military alliance held an exercise in Kyrgyzstan. About 500 troops from the Russian Central Military District participated, reportedly along with forces from KazakhstanKyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. However, Tajikistan apparently was represented only by a group of staff officers. Most of the Russian troops belonged to the 55th Mechanized (Mountain) Brigade (Kyzyl, Tyva Republic) of the 41st Army (HQ in Novosibirsk).

Russian and the Assad regime’s helicopter forces held their first joint exercise in the desert areas of Syria.


*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.