MAS Special ReportWider Black Sea Region

Weekly review NATO - UE LEVANT Western Balkans Black Sea Region

The Russian Federation – Military journal at the Eastern flank of NATO (May 20th –June 2nd 2020)

Marian Dobranici

The security situation remained tense in the Wider Region of the Black Sea. The American strategic bombers flew over the Black Sea, sending a support message from Washington for its East-Europeans allies. Meanwhile the US announced its withdrawal from the “Open Skies” Treaty, Russia stated that it will continue to implement the agreement – most likely, its breaches too, as these were the reason the Americans left the Treaty. As expected, Putin did not give up the Victory Day parade, announcing a new date, June 24th 2020, and the participation of the armed forces from 19 state partners. The move is clearly image-based, given that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic complicated things for the Russian president, who saw himself in the position of blaming the governors. On May 26th 2020, the Russian defence minister, Sergey Shoigu, told the president that the pandemic did not affect the fight capacity of the Russian army and that the activities will continue as planned, including the strategic exercise “Kavkaz 2020”. In East of Ukraine, there were no important military developments recently. In Syria, the security situation is unchanged. Russia continues to use the Syrian territory to project its power in the Mediterranean Sea, in one of the Russian air bases from Syria being observed many fighter jets, unmarked aircrafts, which flew then to Libya and General Khalifa Haftar. Therefore, NATO intensified its reconnaissance missions in the Mediterranean Sea, which led to new security incidents, the implication of the maritime reconnaissance American aircraft (the 6th Fleet) and Russian fighter jets.

Sursă foto: Profi Media

Activities within the NATO provision measures

Reconnaissance flights

According to the official newspaper of the Russian Ministry of Defence, Krasnaia Zvezda, there were 26 reconnaissance flights conducted by the NATO air forces in this period, in the border areas with Russia (21 manned aircrafts and one unmanned aircraft). In three of the situations, the Russian air forces were alerted. Russia thinks that the foreign nations (unidentified) increased their reconnaissance activities at its maritime borders. This statement belongs to Vladimir Kulisov, the chief of the Border Control Service, in an interview for TASS, on May 28th 2020.

Strategic aviation flights

On May 20th 2020, two B-1B strategic bombers flew over Europe, including in the international air space over the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. The bombers took off from US, from the Ellsworth air base, and during its flight they were accompanied by fighter jets, as part of the interoperability training, from many NATO states (Poland, Romania, Greece, Turkey) and partners (Ukraine).

Over the Black Sea, the bombers were intercepted by the Su-27P fighter jets (NATO: Flanker-B) and Su-30M (NATO> Flanker-H) and the contact did not provoke any incidents.

Exercises and operations developed by the Russian Federation


- The military activities developed by the Russian Federation in the Wider Black Sea Region have been small, but slightly increasing for the naval forces.

-In East of Ukraine, the security situation stayed on the same coordinates.

-In North-West of Syria, the situation was stable. Russia continues to use Syria as a transit area for the forces and methods sent to Libya to support the General Khalifa Haftar.

Military activities and operations

East of Ukraine

-In East of Ukraine, the situation was tense, new breaches of the ceasefire agreement being reported. According to OSCE statistics, the monthly number of incidents was the same at the beginning of the year.

The Ukrainian governmental forces published a report of the loses the separatists suffered in May 2020: 49 deaths, 94 wounded and seven weapon systems and military technique units which were withdrawn from the fight. The accuracy of these data can hardly be determined.

On the other hand, OSCE said that there were 44 victims (six deaths and 48 wounded) among civilians, since the beginning of the year up to this moment. These numbers, which are quite small, seem to suggest stabilization for this situation. This is great news for Moscow and the separatists, meanwhile for the Zelensky’s cabinet time of increasingly valuable and the president was recently forces to make a move soon, only one year since taking office. In fact, the president admitted the existence of “B” and “C” plans (with no details, of course), given that the “A” plan, the diplomatic solution, through the Minsk Agreements implementation, will not be done by the end of this year.  


- The ceasefire agreement continues to be followed in Idlib, the statistics indicating the smallest number of victims among the civilians, since the conflict started, back in 2011.

If in the North-West the situation seems to be stable – although local residents are afraid that hostilities can restart at any moment – there are still concerns that new revolt focal point may emerge in other regions. Daraa, in South-West of Syria, seems to be the place to have the biggest potential to quickly escalate the security situation, given that the Assad regime is ready for a decisive move against the rebels in the region.

-The joint patrol missions of Russian and Turkish military men continues in Idlib, along the M5 highway, the 13th operation taking place on May 28th 2020.

If previously missions were limited to a maximum 15km length, due to security risks, on May 28th the patrol got to Urum al-Jaws, 20 km away from the initial point. This seems to indicate that they want to extend the patrols’ range, as suggested many times by the Turkish soldiers.

Actions within the Russian operative naval group in the Mediterranean Sea

On May 25th 2020, the Russian and Syrian naval forces have conducted a join naval exercise, whose objective was the protection of the Tartus port (rent by Russia for 49 years) against a sabotage and diversion action.

From the Russian side, the exercise was attended by fast stars from the "Grachonok" and "Raptor" classes, the minesweeper Ivan Antonov, combat divers and military police units.

On May 20, 2020, the frigate "Admiral Grigorovici" left the operative naval group and began crossing the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean.

The ship is accompanied by a rescue tug, "Professor Nikolai Muru". In the following period, another frigate of this class may be brought to the Mediterranean Sea, from the Black Sea. The Russian Black Sea Fleet also has two "Admiral Grigorovich" class ships, namely the frigates "Admiral Essen" and "Admiral Makarov", which have recently been intensively trained at sea, which may constitute an indicator of a potential deployment within the operative naval group.

It is possible that the submarine "Stari Oskol" will return to the naval group, starting in July 2020. The submarine is currently in the Kronshtadt Shipyard, for maintenance that would be completed around June 10th, 2020.

Only one submarine in the Varshavyanka class (modernized Kilo) is currently in the eastern Mediterranean. This is "Krasnodar", which is planned for repairs, also in Kronshtadt, this summer. It is also possible that another submarine in the Black Sea will be deployed within the naval group, the most suitable candidates being "Kolpino" and "Rostov-on-Don", which have increased the level of practical training in the last month.

Russian fighter jets from Syria to Libia. On May 27, 2020, the US Africa Command accused Russia of sending several MiG-29 (NATO: "Fulcrum") and Su-24 (NATO: "Fencer") fighter jets repainted and unregistered, to support the actions of the Russian paramilitary company Wagner, sent by Moscow to strengthen the forces of pro-Russian General Khalifa Haftar.

According to the US military, 14 aircrafts arrived in Libya from the Russian air base Hmeymim, in western Syria.

Incidents caused by Russian aircraft in international airspace. On May 26th, 2020, two Russian Su-35 (NATO: "Flanker-E") aircraft intercepted unprofessionally a P-8A maritime research aircraft "Poseidon", belonging to the US 6th Fleet, in the airspace internationally, above the Mediterranean Sea.

This is the third incident in two months and comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Moscow, generated by Russia's increasingly difficult involvement in the Libyan conflict by rebel General Khalifa Haftar.

Exercises and other training activates for the Russian military forces within the Russian Black Sea Fleet

The Russia’s Black Sea Fleet activities increased, more ships continuing to be on the sea, uninterruptedly, in the past two weeks.

- On May 21st, 2020, the frigates "Admiral Essen" and "Admiral Makarov" executed artillery fire on land targets, marked in the Opuk range, in Crimea.

The two large surface combat ships have been at sea since May 18, 2020. In addition to the already famous "Kalibr" missile complex, the ships have the A-190 naval cannon, caliber 100 mm. The modernized version of the Soviet naval cannon AK -100 (with a half reduced weight, about 15 tons instead of 35.5 tons and a higher firing rate, 80 strikes per minute).

• On May 23, 2020, the electric-diesel submarines "Kolpino" and "Rostov-on-Don" executed launches of training torpedoes, from immersion, the role of the surface naval target being played by an auxiliary ship of the Russian Black Sea’s Fleet.

The two submarines (modernized Kilo, class " Varshavyanka ") went out to sea on May 19, 2020. The training torpedoes (Training Variant Torpedo / TVT) imitate real torpedoes (instead of the warhead are mounted a wide range of sensors, depending on the objectives followed) and are used to test the launch facilities, sonar capacity, but also the practical skills of the operators.

• On May 26, 2020, the small missile carrier ship "Ingushetia" conducted an air defense exercise, in a naval range in the Black Sea aquarium.

The role of the air enemy was played by two Su-30SM fighters (NATO: "Flanker-H"). The "Ingushetia" is a Buyan-M class ship (project 21631), carrying "Kalibr" missiles.

-On May 28, 2020, a group of three large landing craft conducted a naval exercise in a polygon in the Black Sea.

The large landing craft "Azov", "Novocherkassk" and "Saratov" took part in the exercise. The exercise included artillery fire (with 57 and 76 mm caliber guns), embarkation and disembarkation of the sea landing in an undeveloped coastal area of ​​the Crimean Peninsula.

As of June 2, 2020, the Russian Black Sea Fleet launched at sea no less than 37 battleships, support and auxiliary ships, which will conduct naval exercises throughout the week, including combat shootings, individually and in formation.

The activity practically marks the beginning of the summer training period, on June 1st, 2020. In fact, on June 1st, 2020, the Russian Black Sea Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Igor Osipov, reviewed all ships in the port of Sevastopol, and a commission appointed by him checked the level training crews to perform specific missions.

Important military activities of the other forces dislocated in the Southern Military Region

Although the crews of the ships were intensively trained, for the other categories of forces in the South Moldova the emphasis continued to be on administrative activities, being signaled once again a relatively small number of military activities to keep attention.

• On 26 May 2020, the 11th Joint Aviation Regiment (deployed at Marinovka) conducted refueling activities in the air, involving Su-24M front bombers (NATO: “Fencer-D”) and an Il-78 tanker ( NATO: “Midas”).

• On 27th May 2020, the 960th Assault Aviation Regiment (stationed at Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Krasnodar Oblast) conducted a tactical flight exercise, where the 20 Su-25SM and Su-25SM3 assault aircraft participated.

The exercise included the redeployment of aircraft to a deep aerodrome and the attack of ground targets, marked in the Arzgir range (Stavropol County). Su-25 (NATO: "Frogfoot") is a Soviet-era aircraft (entered service in 1981), intended primarily for direct air support of the ground forces (Close Air Support / CAS). Su-25SM / SM3 are upgraded versions, the result of a program developed since 2000.

New weapons, technologies and military procedures

- the landing ship “Piotr Morgunov” entered the sea testing phase. On May 23, 2020, the large landing ship (or amphibious assault, in Russian terminology) "Piotr Morgunov" left the Yantar Shipyard and headed for the Baltic Sea, where the sea testing phase began, including the verification of radio equipment and firing with artillery installations and air defense complexes. In June, the ship will enter the state testing stage, and will later be delivered to troops, and will join the Pacific Fleet.

The ship is the second in the "Ivan Gren" class, the ship that gives the name of the class being in service in the Northern Fleet, starting with June 2018. It has a displacement of 6,600 tons and can carry 13 tanks or 40 fighting machines and approx. 300 soldiers.

● The submarine "Prince Vladimir" was handed over to the Russian Naval Forces. On May 28, 2020, the submarine "Prince Vladimir", a strategic submarine with nuclear propulsion of class "Borei-A" (Project 955A, an improvement of submarines of class "Borei") was handed over to the Russian Naval Forces, in a ceremony that took place at the Sevmaş Shipyard. The submarine will be part of the Northern Fleet.

The nuclear submarine "Prince Vladimir" is the first in the class "Borei-A", a series of seven submarines planned to be built by 2027. It can carry 16 intercontinental nuclear missiles "Bulava" and has torpedo launchers caliber 533 mm.

The construction of the first Russian invisible bomber, PAK DA, has started. According to the Russian news agency TASS, which quoted sources from the Russian military complex, the construction process of the first invisible Russian bomber, PAK DA, would have started, to be completed in 2021.

PAK DA (which comes from the Russian “Perspektivnyi aviatsionnyi kompleks dal'ney aviatsii”, in translation: perspective aviation complex for long-range aviation) is a “flying wing” type bomber with stealth technology, which replaces the old Tu-95 in the Russian Strategic Aviation (LRA). The first three prototypes should be ready for preliminary testing in 2023, with the aircraft going into series production in 2027.

A new frigate of the "Admiral Gorşkov" class was launched. On May 22nd, 2020, the Severnaia Shipyard (St. Petersburg) announced the launch of the frigate "Admiral Golovko".

"Admiral Golovko" is the third ship in the "Admiral Gorşkov" class (Project 22350), destined, like its predecessors, for the Northern Fleet. It is the most advanced surface battleship in the Russian Navy, with a displacement of approx. 5400 tons and has the universal missile launch complex "Oniks" and "Kalibr". It is not excluded the endowment with hypersonic missiles "Zircon", after the completion of the tests.


● Militarily speaking, the situation in eastern Ukraine will stay the same.

● The situation in northern Syria can deteriorate. The Assad regime might resort, unilaterally, to military actions that run counter to the Kremlin's agenda.

● The military activities in the Southern Military Region will continue to increase in intensity, after the summer training period starts.

Translated by Andreea Soare