Rondeli Russian Military Digest

Rondeli Russian Military Digest: Issue 20, 23 December 2019 - 5 January 2020

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.

For a comprehensive geographic view of the Russian military structure see our Interactive Map of the Russian Military Forces.

A note to readers: While normally this is a weekly publication, the present issue covers two weeks.


Geostrategic Activities

War in Ukraine – Shooting at the Donbass frontline in Ukraine occurred every day in the two weeks covered by this issue. Three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in the week of 23-29 December 2019, while two were killed and five were wounded in the week of 30 December 2019-5 January 2020.

War in Syria – Russian air force conducted periodic strikes, with various levels of intensity, against the Syrian rebels in Idlib region, during the two-week period covered in this issue. In the northern Syria, Russians took over another former American base in the village of Tal Samin, near Raqqa. Meanwhile, the commander of the Russian forces in Syria Lieutenant General Alexander Chaiko named the takeover of the territories east of the Euphrates River as the main success of the forces under his command in 2019.

Russia in Africa – President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed there were 2,000 mercenaries from the Russian Wagner group in Libya, supporting the rebel leader Khalifa Haftar in his fight against the UN-recognized government.


Structural Changes

Russian Defense Ministry information revealed that an air mobile group had been established within the 42nd Mechanized Division (HQ in Khankala, Chechen Republic). This is at least second Russian air mobile unit recently established in the Caucasus. Previously, an air mobile battalion had been established within the 34th Mechanized Brigade (Mountain) (Storozhevaya, Karachay-Cherkess Republic) in the winter of 2018-2019.

Troops of the 42nd Division’s air mobile group during an exercise. Source: Southern Military District


Rearmament and Modernization

Russians announced deployment of their first Avangard hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles.

Buyan-M / Project 21631 class corvette Ingushetia joined the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the late December 2019. Ingushetia’s armament includes Kalibr-NK cruise missiles.

Ingushetia. Source: TASS, from Izvestia

Alexandrit / Project 12700 class minesweeper Vladimir Yemelyanov was commissioned by the Russian navy on 28 December, at Baltiysk naval base in Kaliningrad Oblast, although the ship is to join the Black Sea Fleet.

An artillery regiment of the 144th Mechanized Division (HQ in Yelnya, Smolensk Oblast) was supplied with Msta-SM1 self-propelled howitzers.

Russian Ministry of Defense received the first surface-to-air missile system of the new S-350 model.

An S-350 system. Source: RIA Novosti, from Izvestia



A Rokot space launch vehicle, launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk Oblast on 27 December 2019, delivered several objects to the orbit, including a military satellite and elements of the Gonets-M communications satellite system.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov stated that a planned upgrade of the Russian military satellites had been disrupted. According to Borisov, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the establishment of a commission that is to report on the reasons behind this failure and the ways to fix it by 20 January 2020.



China, Russia and Iran conducted a joint naval exercise in the Gulf of Oman. The exercise took place on 27-30 December 2019. The Baltic Fleet’s Neustrashimyy / Project 11540 Yastreb class frigate Yaroslav Mudry and two support ships participated from the Russian navy.

Air defense forces of the Russian occupation forces in Abkhazia, Georgia, including the S-300 surface-to-air missile systems that Russia has in the region, drilled during the Ne


* 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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