Russia and China will conduct naval drills in the Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa next month, in another indication of their strengthening relationships with Africa’s most developed country amid the war in Ukraine and global financial uncertainty.
The South African armed forces said Thursday that they and the Russian and Chinese navies will engage in “a multinational maritime exercise” from Feb. 17-27 off South Africa’s east coast near the cities of Durban and Richards Bay.
The drills will happen around the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 and will bring more focus on the push by Russia and China for global influence, and the refusal of South Africa — a leading voice on its continent — to side with the West and condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The announcement also comes days before Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due to visit South Africa and hold talks with South African counterpart Naledi Pandor.
The South African government said it has a neutral stance over Ukraine and has called for dialogue and diplomacy, but the upcoming naval drills have led the country’s main opposition party to accuse the government of effectively siding with Russia.