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NATO fighters scramble again to intercept Russian Bear bombers

RIA Novosti

19/03/2008 15:30 MOSCOW, March 19 (RIA Novosti) - NATO fighters scrambled to accompany Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers on a regular patrol over the Atlantic on Wednesday, a Russian Air Force spokesman said.

Two Bear bombers conducted a 16-hour patrol mission Wednesday over the Atlantic Ocean and performed aerial refueling while flying over neutral waters near Norway en route to their home bases.

"During the flight, the Russian bombers were accompanied by NATO's F-16 and Tornado fighters," Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky said.

Interceptions of Russian combat aircraft by NATO fighters are becoming a common occurrence again, after Russia resumed strategic bomber patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans last August, following an order signed by President Vladimir Putin.

Russian bombers have since carried out over 70 strategic patrol flights and have often been escorted by NATO planes.

Drobyshevsky reiterated on Wednesday that regular patrols of Russian strategic bombers do not pose a threat to other countries, and Russia always issues prior warnings of their patrols.

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