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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian strategic bombers fly routine patrol over the Arctic

RIA Novosti

09/06/2008 15:14 MOSCOW, June 9 (RIA Novosti) - A pair of Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers took off Monday from the Engels airbase in central Russia on a routine patrol flight over the Arctic Ocean, an Air Force spokesman said.

Russia resumed strategic bomber patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans last August, following an order signed by then president Vladimir Putin.

"Two Tu-95 bombers have started a regular patrol flight over remote areas of the Arctic," Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said. "The aircraft will perform a variety of tasks, including midair refueling from two Il-78 aerial tankers based at the Dyagilevo airbase [also in central Russia]."

Drik said that all flights by Russian aircraft were performed by skilled pilots in strict compliance with international laws on the use of air space over neutral waters, without violating the borders of other states.

Although it was common practice during the Cold War for both the U.S. and the Soviet Union to keep nuclear strategic bombers permanently airborne, the Kremlin cut long-range patrols in 1992. The decision came as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the ensuing economic and political chaos.

However, the newly-resurgent Russia, awash with petrodollars, has invested heavily in military technology, and the resumption of long-range patrols is widely seen among political commentators as another sign of its drive to assert itself both militarily and politically.

Air Force commander, Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said in April that Russia would drastically increase the number of strategic patrol flights over the world's oceans to 20-30 a month in the near future.



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