Rondeli Russian Military Digest

Rondeli Russian Military Digest: Issue 2, 12 August-18 August 2019

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 took place every day on the frontline in Donbass, Ukraine during the week of 12 August-18 August 2019. One Ukrainian serviceman was killed and another one was wounded by the Russian hybrid forces during the week, according to the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation Press Center.

War in Ukraine – A London-based research group Forensic Architecture collected and published evidence of the Russian armed forces’ participation in the war against Ukraine. The evidence specifically concerns the Battle of Ilovaysk in August 2014.

War in Syria – Russian forces continued their active participation in the Syrian regime’s offensive against the rebels in the southern part of the wider Idlib region during the week of 12 August-18 August 2019. According to a variety of sources collected by the Live Universal Awareness Map, Russian aircraft bombed the city of Maarat al-Numan and the towns and villages of Alia, al-Haas, Hazarin, Hish, Jarjnaz, Kafr Nabl, Kafr Sajinah, Karsa’a, Khan Shaykhun, Latmin, Maarat Hurmah, Maarat al-Sin, Murak, Salhieh, Sheikh Dames and al-Tamanah. Civilian casualties as a result of the Russian airstrikes were reported. Russian air force also conducted airstrikes on the frontline near the town of Kabani, northern Latakia province. 

The Arctic Game – A group of the Northern Fleet ships continued its Arctic expedition launched on 5 August and reported in the previous issue of this digest. After arriving at the port of Dikson (north coast of Krasnoyarsk Krai) on 11 August, the ships proceeded up the Yenisei River to the port of Dudinka. On 17 August, they practiced a landing operation in the area near Dudinka. Russian Defense Ministry reported participation of the naval infantry, arctic mechanized and airborne troops in the exercise. The first two types of troops presumably belong to the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade (based in Sputnik, Murmansk Oblast) and the 80th Arctic Mechanized Brigade (based in Alakurtti, Murmansk Oblast).

The Arctic Game – Russian Ministry of Defense is using the summer period to ship necessary supplies to the remote military bases in the Arctic. The bases in question include: Rogachevo, Novaya Zemlya; Tiksi, on the northern coast of Sakha Republic; Alexandra Land island in the Franz Josef Land archipelago; Sredny Island, Severnaya Zemlya; and Kotelny Island, New Siberian Islands.

The Arctic Game – Russia is adopting a new tactic for its military forces in the Arctic. According to Russians, they are going to deploy mixed “maneuver detachments” that will include Bastion anti-ship missile systems and teams of naval infantry.

In Moscow, Ministers of Defense of Russia and Venezuela, Sergey Shoygu and Vladimir Padrino López, signed an agreement envisioning mutual visits by warships. During the meeting at which the agreement was signed, Shoygu said Russia supported “the independent foreign policy of Venezuela and its resistance to the US attempts to remove the legally elected government.”

Shoygu and López in Moscow. Source: Russian Ministry of Defense

Russia has reportedly signed an agreement with Cuba to modernize the island nation’s military industry. Besides upgrading the equipment that Cuba already possesses, Russia is also going to educate Cuban specialists and transfer relevant technologies.

CNN has published the results of its investigation of Russia’s activities in the Central African Republic. The activities in question include “the training of army recruits in the CAR by some 250 Russian mercenaries, with more on the way,” in return for access to the country’s mineral wealth. According to CNN, “the mercenaries’ headquarters are on the grounds of a now dilapidated former presidential palace at Berengo, a two-hour drive from the capital Bangui.” Meanwhile, according to a Russian military news website, Russian instructors at Berengo have already trained at least 2,700 CAR troops. The website also reported the arrival of two military transport aircraft with the Russian weapons to the CAR capital Bangui, and quoted the Russian ambassador to the CAR saying that several more planes with weapons for the CAR armed forces were expected.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu pronounced a new endorsement of the Chinese-Russian joint air force patrols in the Asia-Pacific region. According to Shoygu, the patrols are “a normal planned work between the neighbors who want not to fight each other, but to cooperate and to have a strategic partnership.

Russian air force flew two Tu-160 heavy strategic bombers to Chukotka Autonomous Okrug region, opposite Alaska. The two bombers were sent from their permanent Engels air base in Saratov Oblast to the Ugolny air base in Chukotka’s capital town Anadyr. They have since returned back to Engels.


Structural Changes

Russia created a new Forpost UAV squadron within the 318th Mixed Aviation Regiment at the Kacha air base in the occupied Crimea, Ukraine. The regiment belongs to the naval aviation of the Black Sea Fleet. The purpose of the squadron is maritime recon and identification of targets for the Russian naval vessels and land-based anti-ship missiles in the Black Sea. The new UAV squadron had been established in the spring of 2019, which was reported in the Russian media on 14 August.

The formation of the 150th Mechanized Division in Rostov Oblast, adjacent to Ukraine’s war-torn Donbass region, is nearly complete. According to the Russians, the construction of the division’s infrastructure and the manning of its last regiment are to be finished by the end of 2019.


Rearmament and Modernization

Russian navy launched sea trials of its new Project 06363 class diesel-electric attack submarine Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. While the submarine is designated for the Pacific Fleet, the trials are being conducted in the Baltic Sea.

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky submarine. Source: Ilya Kurganov/ruspodplav.ru, taken from bmpd.livejournal.com

The commander of the Russian air force said the Russian military would start getting new Mi-28NM anti-armor attack helicopters and Mi-38 transport helicopters before the end of 2019.

A squadron of the 790th Fighter Regiment (at the Khotilovo air base in Tver Oblast), presently armed with Su-27 fighters, is set to have them replaced with the newer Su-35 aircraft.

Troops of the Russian Central Military District received about 100 Fagot anti-tank missile systems.



Russian troops are drilling in six regions of Russia in preparation for the major Center-2019 exercise that is planned for September 2019. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, over 5,000 troops are participating in the drills taking place between 12-31 August in Orenburg, Chelyabinsk, Kemerovo, Sverdlovsk and Samara Oblasts, as well as in Altai Krai.

In the Western Military District, Russians conducted a mobilization exercise that spanned the country’s 26 administrative regions.

Another Western Military District exercise involved 70 UAVs. The exercise was simultaneously conducted in Moscow, Leningrad, Kaliningrad, Voronezh and Smolensk Oblasts.

About 30 Russian naval vessels, “including surface ships, submarines and supply ships”, and headed by the Northern Fleet’s Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class destroyer Severomorsk, conducted an exercise in the Norwegian Sea, near the coast of Norway.

About 1,000 Russian troops of the Eastern Military District’s 37th Mechanized Brigade (based in Kyakhta, Republic of Buryatia) took part in the joint Russian-Mongolian exercise Selenga-2019 that started on 15 August in Mongolia. Mi-24 attack helicopters and Mi-8AMTSh transport and attack helicopters of the 112th Separate Helicopter Regiment (based in Cheremushki, Zabaykalsky Krai) also participated.

Recon troops of the Russian occupation forces in Abkhazia, Georgia conducted exercises in the mountainous part of the occupied province.

Russian recon soldier in occupied Abkhazia, Georgia. Source: Russian Southern Military District press service


Arms Exports

Russian media reports that according to Turkey’s Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar, Turkey expects to receive the second shipment of the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in August-September 2019. Meanwhile, the Turkish armed forces continue to assemble the S-400 systems they have already received and to select locations where to place them.

Serbia’s Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin praised the Russian Mi-35M attack helicopters during his visit to Russia, calling them “flying tanks”. Serbia had already purchased seven Mi-35M helicopters from Russia, with Vulin saying they were expected to be supplied in the first quarter of 2020.


* 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.

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