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Russia's state TASS has announced that the Russian navy will be participating along with China and South Africa in joint naval exercises beginning in February off the coast of South Africa.
Three weeks prior to the announcement of the joint exercises, the Russian frigate 'Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov' left port armed with Russia's newly developed Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles for deployment in the Atlantic.
It is believed that the Zircon hypersonic missile can travel at nine times the speed of sound with a range of over 620 miles. The Russian frigate is expected to cross the Mediterranean before heading to the Russian port of Tartus and then heading south.
According to the TASS report, "'Admiral Gorshkov'... will go to the logistic support point in Syria's Tartus, and then take part in joint naval exercises with the Chinese and South African navies."
The joint exercises have also been confirmed by the South African National Defense Force, which has said the drills will take place between February 17 and 26 and will be located off the port cities of Richards Bay and Durban. The Defense Force also described the goal of the drills as being "to strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia, and China."
The upcoming exercises will be the second time the 3 countries have held joint drills since a 2019 exercise.
It should also be noted that the timing of the drills coincides with the one-year anniversary of the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Given that South Africa is a U.S. ally, the country is coming under a great deal of criticism for hosting the exercises as well as for allowing Russian warships to enter its ports. South Africa is also one of roughly 3 dozen countries to abstain from a UN vote in 2022 that condemned Russia's annexation of 4 eastern Ukrainian territories.
A statement released by David Feldman, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, said, "We note with concern" South Africa's plan to move ahead with the joint drills "even as Moscow continues its brutal and unlawful invasion of Ukraine."
"We encourage South Africa to cooperate militarily with fellow democracies that share our mutual commitment to human rights and the rule of law," Feldman added.