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S. Africa Formalizes Russia, China Drills

FILE: Russian warships, including minesweepers ships Pavel Khenov and Alexander Obukhov, sail during a parade marking Navy Day in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 31, 2022.

South Africa, which has resisted taking sides following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, announced Thursday it will stage 10-day joint maritime drills with Russia and China next month.

"As (a) means to strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China, a multinational maritime exercise between these three countries ... will take place," the army said.

The exercises dubbed "Mosi", which translates to "smoke" in the local Tswana language, are scheduled for February 17 to 27, off the port city of Durban and Richards Bay.

It will be the second such exercise involving the three naval forces, the South African National Defense Force said.

The first was held in November 2019 off Cape Town.

More than 350 South African army personnel will take part "alongside the Russian and Chinese counterparts, with an aim of sharing operational skills and knowledge", the army said.

South Africa recently assumed the chairmanship of the BRICS, a grouping that also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China to challenge the dominant US- and European-led global governance structures.

A continental powerhouse, South Africa has refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a war which has triggered sweeping Western sanctions.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party blasted the "silly" exercises being held at "an awkward time in global geopolitical history due to the Russian war in Ukraine".

The joint maneuveres prove that the government is "biased", said DA shadow defense minister Kobus Marais.

He added that "it is obvious that the value for Russia is to showcase its geopolitical influence in southern Africa as part of their global war games against NATO and the USA".