12 September 2019

The Russian Federation – Military journal on NATO’s Eastern flank (August 27 – September 9, 2019)

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

The security situation has been maintained stable in the Black Sea Extended Region (BSER). Military activities have intensified compared to the previous reference period. From a political-military standpoint, Russia has announced ambitious common projects with India and arms sales towards Delhi worth USD145r million (including S-400 long-range anti-air missile complexes). After the failure of extending the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Russia announced that it is placing its hopes into a potential extension of another important strategic treaty, New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which is due to expire in 2021.

Image source: Mediafax

Russia has continued its materials transport for the humanitarian operations it is carrying out in the Idlib region in Syria.

Separatists have continued to violate the cease-fire agreement in Eastern Ukraine Politically, the prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine can be considered a first success for the Kiev administration.

Military activities have grown in intensity in the Southern Military Region, due to an ample general staff and command drill.

Activities within NATO’s insurance measures

Research flights

  • According to the official newspaper of the Russian Defence Ministry, NATO air forces continued their research activities in areas bordering Russia, with 31 flights registered in the reference period.

Significant regional evolutions


On August 27, 2019, the Russian Federation began the second stage in providing Turkey with components for the S-400 “Triumph” long-range anti-air missile systems. At the same time, on September 1, 2019, the first contingent of Turkish troops which will operate the system arrived in the Russian city of Gatchina. The Turkish soldiers will stay in Russia until January 2020, in order to complete their specific training.

In a first stage, between July 12 and 25, 2019, Russia transported towards the Turkey, by air, with IL-76 MD strategic transport aircraft, the first S-400 missile division. The second stage will end in September. The last systems are set for delivery in April 2020. Furthermore, Turkey also considers purchasing Su-35 and Su-57 jets, according to a statement by President Erdogan, during an official visit to Moscow on August 27, 2019.

Drills and operations carried out by the Russian Federation.


  • The military activities carried out by the Russian Federation in the Black Sea Extended Region (BSER) have grown in intensity, in the context of a large-scale drill, led by the commander of the South Military Region.
  • In Eastern Ukraine, the security situation is still tense, with separatists systematically continuing to violate the cease-fire treaty
  • Materials transports by air have continued towards Latakia (Syria).

Military operations and activities

Eastern Ukraine

  • The situation has remained tense in Eastern Ukraine, with reports of new violations of the cease-fire by the separatists. The average number of incidents caused by separatists were more than 10 per day, while the Ukrainian government forces suffered deaths and injuries.
  • On September 7, 2019, Russia and Ukraine held a mutual prisoner exchange (35/35). Moscow also freed the 24 sailors detained in November 2019 in the Strait of Kerch, and received in exchange several individuals detained in Kiev for their involvement in separatist actions in Eastern Ukraine.

For the moment, the Zelensky Administration’s diplomatic efforts seem to be working, in comparison with the actions of the previous Petro Poroshenko regime, with who Vladimir Putin rejected to negotiate from the beginning.

  • The Riverine 2019 Romanian-Ukrainian naval drill. Between September 4 and 6, 2019, the bilateral Riverine-2019 military drill took place in the Danube’s basin and naval area, where the Danube spills into the Black Sea. The drill aimed to increase the interoperability level between the two country’s maritime forces, in order to ensure security in the river-sea area. The Ukrainian side was represented by two artillery-carrier boats, three rapid patrol boats, a command ship and a helicopter. Romania participated with two armoured river boats, other two river boats, a river tugboat and a naval Puma helicopter.


The Russian transport aviation continued to carry out air transports to Syria, with An-124 and Il-76MD aircrafts. According to the Russian defence minister, 11 tons of food and medicine were delivered in the past two weeks, destined especially for Syrians in refugee camps.

Russian investments into Syrian infrastructure. According to Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu, Russia intends to invest in the reconstruction of airport (The Hmeimim Air Base – Latakia) and sea (the Tartus Naval Base) infrastructure in the bases it currently operates in Western Syria.

Russia intends to stay in Syria in the long-term and to use the Syrian military bases as outposts for projecting its force in the Mediterranean. In June 2019, the Syrian Parliament approved loaning the Tartus Naval Base to Russia for a 49-year period.

Drills and other activities to train military forces in the Russian Black Sea Fleet

Between August 27 and 31, 2019, a command and general staff mission was gekd, led by the commander of the South Military Region, Gen. Col. Aleksandr Dvornikov. Practical activities took place in the Black Sea port waters and the six training ranges in Crimea, Krasnodar Krai and the regions of Rostov and Volgograd. Approximately 8,000 troops, more than 200 military technique unites, 30 aircrafts and helicopters and 10 fighting and auxiliary ships of the BSF.

  • The land forces (approximately 5000 troops) carried out 13 tactical fighting drills in companies.
  • The naval forces (2000 marines and 10 fighting and auxiliary ships, including the “Admiral Grigorovich” and “Admiral Makarov” frigates and several large landing ships) carried out a drill in the Opuk firing rage, in Crimea. The scenario included the marine sub-infantry units conquering and maintaining a bridgehead, with fire support from surface ships and the sea air forces.
  • The air forces carried out actions in support of land and naval forces. Twenty Mi-8AMTS helicopters belong to the Fourth Air Forces and Air Defence Army ensure the transport of aerial landing sub-units in the Opuk firing range in Crimea. The South Military Region operational-tactical air force (15 fighter, bombing and assault SU-30SM, Su-34, Su-24M and Su-25 jets) carried out a tactical land assault drill, targeting the conventional opponent’s marching formations. Multi-role SU-30SM aircraft from the BSF Sea Air Forces carried out seek and destroy missions of the conventional opponent’s naval detachment.

On September 2, 2019, Pantsir missile and anti-air systems in the BSF coast defence troops, deployed in Crimea, carried of a seek and destroy mission of cruise missiles.

Other training activities

Tactical drills

  • On September 2, 2019, SU-25SM3 assault jets carried out a tactical drill in a firing range in the Krasnodar Krai, performing non-guided missile and bomb launches on targets imitating armoured technique convoys.
  • On September 3, 2019, an anti-air defence drill was carried out in the Kuban area, with the participation of Buk-M2 and S-300PS anti-air missile systems. The airborne enemy was represented by Su-30SM, fighter jets, SU-25SM assault jets and Mi-8AMTS transports and fighting helicopters.
  • On September 6, 2019, 10 frontline Su-24M bombers and multi-role Su-30SM fighter jets carried out tactical fighting drills in the Opuk firing range in Crimea.  The scenario included non-guided missile and bomb launches on targets imitating artillery firing positions and infantry support points.
  • Starting with September 9, 2019, the South Military Region’s artillery troops (more than 10,000 soldiers and 3,000 weapon systems) have been organizing the summer training camp, which will last four weeks, through 30 firing ranges in the area. During the camp, more than 250 tactical drills are planned, within battery and division levels.

New weapons and military technologies.

The “Ivan Antonov” minesweeper arrived in Sevastopol. On September 7, 2019, the “Ivan Antonov” minesweeper arrived in the Port of Sevastopol. The sea was entered into the BSF in the January 2019 and had remained in Sankt Petersburg, where its crew was trained within the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet.

“Ivan Antonov” is the third Alexandrit-class (Project 12700) minesweeper. Its body is made of glass fibre, has a displacement of 700 tons and a crew formed out of 44 sailors. It has several types of mechanical and magnetic minesweepers and autonomous robots which can intervene, at the surface or underwater, to detect and destroy naval mines.

New Russian helicopter carriers will be built in Crimea. According to sources from the naval industry, the first helicopter carrier ships in the Russian Navy will be built at the Zaliv Shipyard in Kerch, Crimea. Their assembly would begin in May next year, and the first ship of this type will be delivered to the Russian Air Forces at the latest in 2027.

The ships will have a displacement of approximately 15,000 towns and will transport at least 10 helicopters of various types. Russia does not have such sips and intended to purchase two Mistral-class helicopter carriers for France, for which it had signed the contract and made the payment, with the delivery scheduled to take place in 2015. The events in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, however, persuaded France to unilaterally cancel the contract, and the first ship destined to Russia has already been re-directed to Egypt.


  • No significant evolutions are expected, military-wise, in Syria and Eastern Ukraine.
  • The South Military Region’s activity will continue at a heightened level, as training cramps for all force categories and weapon types are due to begin, which are traditionally carried out towards the end of the summer.
  • The second part of September will see the most important drills planned for this year. The “Centre-2019” operational-strategic drill will be carried out in the Orenburg region, between September 9 and 23, 2019 and will see a significant participation of approximately 130,000 troops (including a numerous international participation, with China and India among the invited states). The common Russian-Byelorussian “Union Shield-2019” drill will be carried out near the borders of Latvia, between September 13 and 19, 2019, and will host approximately 12,000 Russian and Byelorussian troops. These important deployments, near NATO’s eastern border, can result in a tenser security situation in the region.

Translated by Ionut Preda