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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian strategic bombers complete 20-hour patrol over Arctic

RIA Novosti

10/06/2008 18:05 MOSCOW, June 10 (RIA Novosti) - Two Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers have successfully completed a 20-hour patrol flight over the Arctic, a spokesman for Russia's Air Force said on Tuesday.

"After completing an almost 20-hour flight, the crews returned to the airbase in Engels. During air patrols, the Russian planes were accompanied by NATO fighters," Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said, adding that the aircraft practiced midair refueling.

Drik said Monday that a pair of Tu-95s had taken off from the Engels airbase near Saratov in southern Russia for a routine patrol flight over the Arctic Ocean.

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

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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