A Russian warship armed with advanced hypersonic missiles completed an exercise in the Atlantic Ocean ahead of joint naval exercises with the Chinese and South African navies scheduled for next month, the Russian defense ministry said on Wednesday.
Russia’s Admiral Gorshkov frigate, armed with hypersonic Zircon missiles, was practicing “executing a missile strike against an enemy surface target,” the ship’s commander Igor Krokhmal said in a video released by the ministry.
The exercise, described by state news agency Tass as an “electronic launch” or virtual simulation, confirmed the “designed features” of the missile system, Krokhmal said, pointing to the missiles’ alleged ability to reach distances of more than 900 kilometers (560 miles). 559 miles).
The test was part of a long voyage of the Admiral Gorshkov frigate launched earlier this month, when Russian state media said the warship had been dispatched with the hypersonic missiles. The deployment also includes joint training with the Chinese and South African navies off the coast of South Africa, according to Moscow and Pretoria.
The exercises come as Russia approaches the first anniversary of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and mark both a show of force and – with the joint exercises – an opportunity for Moscow to show that it is not isolated on the world stage, despite broad international conviction. of his unprovoked war.
The White House said on Monday that the US “has concerns about every country … exercises with Russia while Russia wages a brutal war against Ukraine.
At a joint meeting in Pretoria on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor defended the naval exercises, with Lavrov saying Moscow does not want so-called “scandals” related to the exercises.
Pandor, posing next to Lavrov as he smiled and shook hands, claimed it is normal for all countries to hold military exercises with “friends around the world.”
“There should be no compulsion on a country to carry them out with another partner. It is part of a natural course of relations between countries,” she added, without explicitly referring to criticism of South Africa for its refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion.
In a separate statement In detail about the joint exercises, which will take place from February 17 to 27, South Africa’s defense ministry said that “contrary to claims” by critics, South Africa “did not relinquish its neutral stance on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.” and “continues to encourage both sides to engage in dialogue as a solution to the current conflict.”
China has not directly confirmed its participation, but the defense ministry’s website on Monday posted an article from the state news agency Xinhua referencing South Africa’s announcement of the exercises. China is celebrating a week-long Chinese New Year holiday.
The US has repeatedly warned Beijing, which has a close strategic partnership with Moscow, against providing material support to the Russian military in its war in Ukraine.
The Biden administration recently expressed concern to China over evidence that it has suggested Chinese companies sold non-lethal equipment to Russia for use in Ukraine, though it was not clear whether Beijing was aware of the alleged transactions.
According to South Africa, some 350 South African National Defense Force personnel are expected to participate in the joint maritime exercise, along with their Russian and Chinese counterparts. An earlier exercise between the three navies took place in 2019.
It is the first time that the exercises will involve the Admiral Gorshkov frigate with Zircon hypersonic missiles, which were first tested at the end of 2021.
The long-range weapons, which Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month have “no analogues in any country in the world,” travel more than five times the speed of sound and are more difficult to detect and intercept.
The frigate was actively involved in testing the missiles, Tass said, designed and produced by the Research and Production Association of Machine-Building, part of Russia’s Tactical Missiles Corporation.
The current deployment, which started Jan. 4, was expected to see the ship navigate the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, Tass reported at the time.