South Africa holds joint military exercise with Russia, China
South Africa is holding a joint military exercise with Russia and China that opposition figures say amounts to an endorsement of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The US has also criticised the 10-day naval drills, which will continue over the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine.
But South Africa’s government says it remains neutral regarding the conflict, and that it routinely hosts similar drills with other countries, including France and the US.
The naval exercises, called Mosi, which means “smoke” in the Tswana language, are taking place in the Indian Ocean, off the South African coast.
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) says 350 members of its armed forces will take part.
Russia has announced it will send its Admiral Gorshkov warship, which carries Zircon hypersonic missiles. These fly at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of 1,000 km (620 miles).
Moscow “will be trying to show that despite its setbacks in the war in Ukraine, its armed forces are still very powerful”, says Denys Reva from South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies.
The SANDF has said little about the forthcoming exercise, but a 2019 joint drill between the three countries involved seven ships – one warship from each nation, plus fuelling ships and survey ships.
They practised tackling coastal fires and floods, and recapturing ships from pirates.
A White House spokesperson said in January: “The United States has concerns about any country… exercising with Russia as Russia wages a brutal war against Ukraine.”
South Africa previously abstained from a UN vote condemning the invasion. It also refused to join the US and Europe in imposing sanctions on Russia.
The South African government sparked a political row when it gave permission for a superyacht called the Nord, which is linked to the sanctioned Russian oligarch Alexey Mordashov, to dock in Cape Town – although it is thought the vessel did not actually go there.
The sanctioned Russian cargo ship, Lady R, was also allowed to unload supplies at a South African naval base. The government said it contained a delayed order for ammunition.
South Africa points out it has held four joint exercises with the US since 2011, as well as drills with France and Germany. —BBC