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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War in Ukraine – On 17 February 2022, military situation in Donbas changed drastically compared to the previous period as Russian hybrid forces launched numerous artillery strikes against Ukrainian forces all along the frontline. Frequent artillery strikes continued in the subsequent days. On 18 February, Moscow’s proxy regime in Donetsk announced mass evacuation of civilians to Russia. On 19 February, Russia’s proxy regimes in both Donetsk and Luhansk announced general military mobilization.
Russian troops deployed near Ukraine were reported by numerous sources to be moving into positions only few kilometers from Ukraine’s border during the week of 14-20 February. According to a U.S. intelligence assessment reported on 20 February, Russia at that point had about 75% of its combat units postured against Ukraine, or about 120 battalion tactical groups. Combined with the hybrid forces in Donbas, the number of Russian troops around Ukraine reportedly was around 190,000.
On 20 February, Russia and Belarus extended their joint exercises on the Belarusian territory that had been supposed to end that day, meaning that tens of thousands of Russian troops with their equipment would remain in Belarus.
Mapped locations of Russian forces in Russia and Belarus near Ukraine, and in occupied Crimea
A group of Russian warships from three fleets of the Russian navy operated in the eastern Mediterranean Sea during the week of 14-20 February 2022. The group included the Northern Fleet’s Slava / Project 1164 Atlant class guided missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov, Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov, Admiral Gorshkov / Project 22350 class frigate Admiral Kasatonov, and Project 677 Lada class diesel submarine Sankt Peterburg; the Pacific Fleet’s Slava / Project 1164 Atlant class guided missile cruiser Varyag and Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class Admiral Tributs; and the Black Sea Fleet’s Admiral Grigorovich / Project 11356P/M class guided missile frigate Admiral Grigorovich.
Russian sources reported on 15 February that Russian air force had deployed Tu-22M3 long-range strategic bombers and MiG-31K attack aircraft (armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles) to the Khmeimim air base in Syria.
U.S. fighters and other coalition aircraft escorted two Russian Tu-22M3 long-range strategic bombers and a cargo plane over the American-controlled zone in eastern Syria.
On 19 February 2022, Russia conducted a strategic nuclear forces exercise. The exercise was led by Vladimir Putin, who invited Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to attend as well.
Putin and Lukashenko during the 19 February nuclear forces exercise
The Baltic Fleet’s Steregushchiy / Project 20380 class corvettes Soobrazitelnyy and Stoikiy, on a voyage to the Northern Sea and the northern Atlantic Ocean since 24 January 2022, returned to their base in Baltiysk on 16 February.
Russia in sub-Saharan Africa – According to U.S. officials, as of February 2022 Russia had between 3,000 and 5,000 Wagner group mercenaries on the continent of Africa, including 800-1,000 in Mali.
According to Russian sources, the new 47th Tank Division was established on the basis of the 1st Tank Army’s (HQ in Bakovka, Moscow Oblast) 6th Tank Brigade in Mulino, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, on 1 December 2021. One of the new division’s units is the 26th Tank Regiment, also based in Mulino.
Russian media reported that an air regiment had been established at Savasleika air base in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast. The regiment reportedly includes MiG-31K attack aircraft armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. Before the regiment’s establishment, Savasleika hosted a squadron of MiG-31BSM and MiG-31BM interceptors. The new regiment belongs to the Long Range Aviation Command.
The Northern Fleet launched exercises in the Barents Sea. Among other participating vessels, the exercises involved Kirov / Project 1144 Orlan class heavy guided missile cruiser Pyotr Velikiy, Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyer Severomorsk and Admiral Gorshkov / Project 22350 class frigate Admiral Gorshkov.
1,500 Russian troops of the 7th Military Base (mechanized brigade based in occupied Abkhazia, Georgia) reportedly held an exercise in the occupied region.
*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.