Rondeli Russian Military Digest

Rondeli Russian Military Digest: Issue 34, 6 April - 12 April 2020

Author: Zurab Batiashvili, Research Fellow at 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.

You can see all issues of Rondeli Russian Military Digest at this page. For your convenience, we have added the Digest Content Search that can help users find the digest’s issues containing information they need using key words and phrases.

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


Geostrategic Activities

War in Ukraine – Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces on the Donbass frontline during the week of 6-12 April 2020. Shooting on the frontline occurred every day of the week.

War in Ukraine – Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian reconnaissance UAV on the frontline near the town of Svitlodarsk, north-east from the city of Horlivka on 5 April 2020. The drone is of the Bird Eye 400 type (which Russians call “Zastava”). According to the information present on the downed UAV, it was produced by the Ural Civil Aviation Plant (located in Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation) which presently functions under Russia’s “State Corporation for Assistance to Development, Production and Export of Advanced Technology Industrial Product”, commonly known as Rostec. The incident provided Ukrainians with additional evidence of Moscow’s activities in Donbass, Ukraine.

The downed Bird Eye 400 recon UAV. Source: Defence Blog

The plate on the downed UAV, indicating the plant were it was produced, and this particular UAV’s production number. Source: Defence Blog

Russia is reportedly creating paramilitary groupsalong the Russian-Ukrainian border near the Kharkiv, Sumy and Chernihiv regions of Ukraine.” The development is noteworthy, since paramilitary groups were used during the launch of Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine in Crimea and Donbass in 2014.

Russia in AfricaAccording to some sources, mercenaries from Russia’s state-backed Wagner group departed from Mozambique in March 2020. Russia had previously deployed Wagner to Mozambique to help the government fight jihadist rebels in the north of the country. As we recently reported, there also is information about Wagner’s withdrawal from Libya, were it was helping rebel leader Khalifa Haftar in his fight against the UN-recognized government in Tripoli. It is not clear, at this point, whether claims regarding Wagner’s withdrawal from either Libya or Mozambique are correct.

Air Force Magazine reported that US F-22 fighters “intercepted two Russian IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft near Alaska on April 8, the latest in a series of similar incidents in the region.”

The Pacific Fleet’s Improved Yug / Project 862.2 class intelligence collection ship Marshal Gelovani arrived to the D'Urville Sea, near Adélie Land in East Antarctica, by 9 April 2020. As previously reported in this digest, in January 2020 Antarctica was visited by the Northern Fleet’s Project 22010 Kruys class special purpose intelligence collection ship Yantar.

The Pacific Fleet’s Steregushchiy / Project 20380 class corvettes Gromkiy and Sovershennyy, which had recently departed from Vladivostok for a long-range voyage, passed through the Tsushima Strait between Japan and Korea, and entered the East China Sea.

The Japanese Defense Ministry’s photos of Sovershennyy (above) and Gromkiy (below), during their passage through the Tsushima Strait. Source: bmpd.livejournal.com


Structural Changes

The 20th Mechanized Brigade (Volgograd) of the 8th Army (HQ in Novocherkassk, Rostov Oblast) now has anti-UAV units.


Rearmament and Modernization

Russian sources belatedly reported that Project 20183 class ship Akademik Aleksandrov had joined the Russian navy, specifically the Northern Fleet, in early March 2020, at the Severodvinsk naval base. While Russians officially classify it as an “oceanographic research vessel”, the Institute for Global Threats and Democracies Studies (IGTDS) calls it a spy ship with “ice-class to operate in Arctic”. In June 2019, while conducting sea trials prior to officially joining the navy, Akademik Aleksandrov was seen in Severodvinsk with a Poseidon strategic weapon on its deck - an autonomous nuclear-powered unmanned underwater vehicle, presently under development in Russia.

Akademik Aleksandrov with a Poseidon object on its deck. Source: Covert Shores

Russian sources indicate that in the future the Northern Fleet is going to be a primary recipient of the S-350 surface-to-air missile systems. Supply of the systems to the Northern fleet is set to become a component of Moscow’s effort to strengthen its air defense assets in the Arctic region.

The 10th Special Forces Brigade (Molkino, Krasnodar Krai) received Tigr-M armored all-terrain infantry mobility vehicles.

“A large batch” of the 2S12A Sani heavy mortars was delivered to an unnamed Russian military unit.



Over 10,000 troops of the Central Military District participated in a series of air defense exercises that took place in Orenburg Oblast.

Air defense units of the Black Sea Fleet’s 22nd Army Corps (HQ in Simferopol, Russian-occupied Crimea, Ukraine) conducted an exercise on the occupied peninsula.

Recon, mechanized and engineer troops from the 7th Military Base (a brigade-sized unit in occupied Abkhazia, Georgia) of the 49th Army (HQ in Stavropol) held an exercise.


Arms Exports

Russia started exporting BK-10 / Project 02450 high-speed assault boats to an unnamed country in the sub-Saharan Africa.

BK-10 boat. Source: RIA Novosti, from Izvestia



The pandemic and the resulting self-isolation regime have reportedly begun to affect the Russian military industry.

On 10 April 2020, the Black Sea Fleet’s Admiral Grigorovich / Project 11356P/M class guided missile frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov were quarantined on their arrival to the Sevastopol naval base in occupied Crimea, Ukraine, from a deployment in the Mediterranean Sea.


*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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