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 Ukraine – One Ukrainian military service member was killed and four were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces on the Donbas frontline during the week of 13-19 September 2021.

War in Syria – Russian air force conducted strikes in the Syrian rebel-held Idlib region on 13-15 and 18-19 September 2021.

Russia in Africa – Russia and Mali reportedly are close to a deal that would send up to 1,000 of Russian Wagner group mercenaries to this West African country. Mali’s Prime Minister said in response to the French and other Western concerns regarding these plans that “Mali has the right to seek military support from whoever it wants.” Some reports claim that Wagner members are already present in Mali.

The Arctic Game – A group of the Northern Fleet ships, on a long-range expedition in the Arctic region since 10 August 2021, entered the Laptev Sea from the west on 18 September 2021, after leaving the port of Dudinka on 15 September. The group includes Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyer Severomorsk and Ropucha / Project 775 class landing ship Georgiy Pobedonosets.

The Arctic Game – Russians have decided to modernize the Ugolny air base (Anadyr, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug).


Structural Changes

Russian armed forces have established the 20th Mechanized Division on the basis of the former 20th Mechanized Brigade (Volgograd) of the 8th Army (HQ in Novocherkassk, Rostov Oblast). Russian sources suggest the following structure of the main forces of the new division: 242nd Mechanized Regiment (Kamyshin, Volgograd Oblast), 255th Mechanized Regiment (Volgograd), 944th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment, 358th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment, 428th Separate Tank Battalion (near Volgograd) and 487th Separate Anti-Tank Artillery Battalion.

Armor of the newly established 20th Mechanized Division during an exercise in August 2021


Military Strategy

In the last couple of months, Russians have established and begun to promote a new structure for training and mobilizing reservists – the Battle Army Reserve of the Country (BARS). First contracts with new reservists have already been signed. As we reported in the previous issue of this digest, on 6 September 2021, Russian Defense Ministry announced its decision to increase the number of military reservists.


Rearmament and Modernization

First S-500 surface-to-air missile systems reportedly began to be delivered to the Russian armed forces. According to previous reporting, it had been planned to deliver S-500 systems to the 1st Air Defense and Missile Defense Army (HQ in Balashikha, Moscow Oblast).

A batch of TOS-1A thermobaric multiple rocket launchers has been delivered to the Russian Ministry of Defense.



Troops of the 4th Military Base (mechanized brigade in Tskhinvali and Java, occupied Tskhinvali Region, Georgia) held a series of exercises during the week of 13-19 September 2021, as a part of the Southern Military District exercises that had been launched on 12 September.

Reconnaissance and artillery forces of the Black Sea Fleet’s 22nd Army Corps exercised in occupied Crimea, Ukraine.

A Russian mechanized battalion belonging to the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region held an exercise.

Russian exercise in Transnistria region, Moldova


*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