26 September 2019

The Russian Federation- Military Journal on NATO’s Eastern Flank (10-24 September 2019)

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

The security situation remained pretty stable in the Extended Region of the Black Sea. The center of gravity of the military activities developed by the Russian Federation has moved to East of Urals, due to the organization of the annual operative-strategic exercise “Center-2019”. Given the first presence ever of the Chinese soldiers at this exercise, Moscow has announced, through the Defence Minister, Sergey Shoygu, that they are working on an ambitious military cooperation plan with China, for the 2020-2021 period. President Vladimir Putin did not forget either about Russia’s satellite villages, as he revealed that he is planning on modernizing the armed forces from Abkhazia.

Image source: Mediafax

-Russia continues the transport of materials for the humanitarian operations that it is developing in Idlib, Syria;

-Given that the diplomatic plans for the organization of a Normandy reunion with the chief of states are still under process, the Ukrainian officials have announced that they are working on a separation plan of the forces along the demarcation line in Donbas;

-The military activities in the South Military Region were below the expectations comparing to the previous period.


Activities across the NATO assurance measures

Reconnaissance flights

- According to Russian Defence Ministry’s newspaper, Krasnaia Zezda, the NATO air forces have continued with the reconnaissance activities in the border areas with Russia, with a total of 29 flights.

Exercises and operations developed by the Russian Federation


- the military activities developed by the Russian Federation in Black Sea’s Extended Region have decreased.

-In East of Ukraine, the security situation stays tense, as the separatists continue to break the ceasefire agreement;

-They have continued to transport the materials to Latakia (Syria) through air.

Operations and military activities

East Ukraine

-In East of Ukraine, the situation is still tense, as the separatists continue to break the ceasefire agreement. According to the statistics provided by the governmental forces, the number of separatists’ attack over the Ukrainian positions has doubled in the past two weeks. They have also continued to use heavy armament, which is prohibited in the Minsk agreements.

-According to a statement from 21st of September 2019, made by the Ukrainian minister of defence, Andrii Zagorodniuk, the Ukrainian General Staff of the Army is making a disengagement plan of the forces along the contact line. According to the Ukrainian official, the plan foresees the concurrent withdrawal of both parts along the whole front. Zagorodniuk has stated that he is not talking about a military withdrawal, but about a maneuver which aims at reducing the risks against the Ukrainian forces.

Currently, the governmental forces and the separatists have withdrawn or are planning to withdraw from three disengagement areas (Zolotoie, Ptrovskoie and Luganskaia, established through the Minsk agreements), destroying the old fortifications and building new ones, immediately after building devices in the new districts, something that the OSCE observers have repeatedly required. The current disengagement concept foresees the creation of a 2 km length and 2 km depth demilitarized area, which keeps the forces exactly in the range of indirect armament. According to the new plan, the proposed distance between the opposed forces may be increased up to the limit of the direct range armament, which would definitely reduce the risks against the personnel.

- In an interview for the online publication Livii Bereh (Radio Liberty), the presidential counsellor Andrii Yermak has stated that the Normandy summit with the chiefs of state could be held at the end of September or the beginning of October. Yermak also stated that a mutual prisoners’ change could happen in one month. As for Donbass, Yermak has stated that the Zelenski administration is against Ukraine’s federalization or giving Lugansk and Donetsk regions a special status, as they want both their peaceful withdrawal and Crimea.


The Russian aviation has continued to make air transports to Syria, with An-21 and II-76MD aircrafts. According to the Russian Defence Ministry, in the past two weeks, they have delivered 12 tons of food and medicines, mostly to Syrians from refugees’ camps.  

Changes across the Russian Operative Navy Group in the Mediterranean Sea.

On 23.09.2019, the “Admiral Makarov” frigate across the Russian Black Sea Fleet has left Sevastopol, transiting towards the Mediterranean Sea, whereat it will take, most likely, the command of the Russian operative navy group. According to official information, aboard there is the commander of the Russian Fleet himself, vide-admiral Igor Osipov. He will probably come back to Sevastopol, with one of the small Kalibr missile carrier ship, which is for months in the Mediterranean Sea.

Exercises and other training activities for the Russian military forces across the Russian Black Sea Fleet

- Starting with September 13th 2019, there is a training camp developing for the coast defence troops from Crimea. There are participating around 1000 soldiers and more than 200 fight systems, among them the complex coast missiles Bastion, Bal and Bereg.

-on September 16th 2019, a navy group composed of the “Admiral Essen” frigate, the “Mirage” small missile carrier ship and the maritime minesweepers “Turbinist”, “Vice-admiral Zaharin” and “Jelezniakov” have executed an exercise in the maritime polygons from the Black Sea. Afterward, on September 21th  2019, the ships have participated at a maritime drop exercise, described below.

- On September 21th 2019, in the Opuk ppolygon, from Crimea, it was held the active phase of a double-faction tactical exercise, at brigade level, which opposed the 810 marine infantry Brigade, the 125 coast defence brigade. There were 3000 soldiers present, 12 fight and auxiliary ships, 300 fight technique units and 30 aircrafts and helicopters.

In a normal scenario for the Russian marine infantry, covered by the large fight surface ships (the “Admiral Essen” frigate), the minesweeper ships have acted through the execution of halls among enemy’s marine mines field, along the “Orsk” drop ship to disembark the maritime drop, to conquer and make a beachhead. The enemy was marked by the coast defence subunits, supported by the army forces’ aviation. A similar exercise, however smaller in magnitude, was executed, at the end of August, across the command and general staff exercise, led by the Russian Southern Military District commander, general-colonel Aleksandr Dvornikov. These frequent tactical exercises show the importance the Russian Black Sea Fleet gives to this weapon. The Russian Black Sea Fleet has 7 large ships, included in the Aligator and Ropucha classes, wherewith they can embark, through one wave only, around 2000 soldiers and 100 fight tanks or 160 fight vehicles. Concretely, they can fight with almost one marine brigade, anywhere on Black Sea’s coasts, which should worry the riverside states that Russia is disputing with.

The Russian-Serbian air defence exercise “Slavic Shield-2019”

Starting with September 22th 2019, in Ashuluk polygon, Astrakhan Region, it was held a Russian-Serbian joint training stint “Slavic Shield 2019”. Previously, the Russian Defence Minister has announced that the Serbian soldiers are at the training center of the air defence troops from Gatchina, where they are training on simulators.

According to the information provided on official channels, the Serbian soldiers have trained for the operation of the S-400 “Triumph” long range air missile systems and the complex mixed artillery and air defence missiles “Pantsir-S1”. The Serbian army does not have, for now, such systems and although they did not seem to want to buy them, this may change in the future, as Russia is willing to export its system at any cost, before starting the series production for the new S-500.

The “Center 2019” Exercise

On September 21th 2019, it ended the “Center – 2019” exercise, Russia’s most important military training activity for this year. On September 20th, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the Kyrgyz president, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, have participated at the active phase of this exercise, in Donguz polygon, Orenburg Region.

Comparing to previous years, the Russian officials did not say too much on this exercise. We already know that the Caspian Sea Flotilla was part of the exercise and there were voices talking about the first drop ever of an entire paratrooper regiment, probably in one wave only. For now, there are no information about the different phases of the exercise or how the foreign soldiers who were part of it were integrated.

The “Union Shield 2019” exercise

On September 19th 2019, it ended the joint Russian-Byelorussian exercise “Union Shield- 2019”. The exercise started on September 13th 2019, in the Mulino polygon, from the Nijinii Novgorod Region, having around 12.000 soldiers participating (4000 Byelorussian), 950 and fight systems and 70 aircrafts and helicopters. Exercise’s details were sent to OSCE, in order to follow the Wien conventions’ provisions from 2011 (Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures).

“Union Shield 2019” is taking place once every two years, alternatively on Russia and Belarus’s territories. This year, it was held close to Moscow, far from the borders, to send NATO a message that the activity is not targeting the West. There were provided less details to the media. It seems that the scenarios had actions sequences against the illegal armed groups and saboteurs, something usual for the Russian military exercises.

New weapons and military technologies

The Tor air defence systems for the Russian Ministry of Defence. According to the Russian media agency TASS, on 19.09.2019, in the presence of president Vladimir Putin, the Russian Minister of Defence and the Electromechanical Enterprise Kupol (from Ijevsk) have signed a contract for the delivery of short range air missile systems Tor-M2 and Tor-M2DT, worth of $1,56 billion.

The Tor (NATO code: SA-15 Gauntlet) is a short range air missile system, developed during the Soviet Union (1983), however still effective in combating air targets and regarded as superior to systems belonging to the same category, produced by the Westerns. The system is mobile and autonomous, having on one chassis only both the Transporter Launcher and Radar. Tor-M2 is a modern version, which can pick up the launch of 16 9M338 missiles, with a range up to 12 km. The Tor-M2DT is the version developed for operations in the arctic.

S-500 will enter the mass production by 2020. According to Sergey Cemezov, the CEO of Rosteh, in the second half of the following year, it will start the mass production of the new long range air defence missile complex, S-500. Cemezov also stated that the system will only enter in the Russian Defence Ministry endowment, and then, maybe, they will think on whether export it or not.

On the “Prometei” S-500 (or the 55R6M “Triumphal-M”) we do not know too much. The range is estimated to be around 600 km and the system seems to be able to combat including the hypersonic missiles (with a speed higher than 5Mach). Experts are stating that the system will be used along with S-400 “Triumph” and it will be the first to be dedicated to air defence, meanwhile the S-400 will be used to combat the air targets. State’s endowment program foresees the establishment of 10 S-500 artillery battalion, to be deployed firstly to Moscow, to ensure capital’s defence against intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Possible evolutions in the following period

- in Syria and East Ukraine, we do not expect any significant evolutions, militarily speaking;

-the military activity in Southern Military Region will be normal for this phase of the training process. The center of gravity of all Russian military activities will continue to be in Center Military Region, given the series of exercises to be developed in October (“Combat Brotherhood-2019”, “Indestructible Brotherhood-2019”, “Echelon-2019”), involving more than 10.000 soldiers from CSTO’s states.

-the meeting of the America and the Ukrainian presidents, from 25th of September, at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly from New York, may clarify the military and diplomatic support US gives Ukraine.

Translated by Andreea Soare