Russian bombers to leave Venezuela mid-September

September 12th, 2008 - 2:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Sep 12 (RIA Novosti) Two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers that landed in Venezuela Wednesday are scheduled to return home Sep 15 but will stay on if Venezuela gives its approval, Russia’s air force said on Thursday. The bombers landed at Venezuela’s Libertador airfield late Wednesday night and during the 13-hour flight from their home base in central Russia were accompanied by NATO fighters.

“Their return has been scheduled for Sep 15,” air force spokesperson Lt Col Vladimir Drik said.

However, Maj Gen Pavel Androsov, commander of the air force’s strategic aviation, said the planes’ return “could take place later than Sep 15. It all depends on Venezuela’s hospitality”.

During their stay in Venezuela, the bombers will conduct a number of patrol flights over neutral waters in the Pacific and the Caribbean. According to Drik, the planes are not carrying weapons.

The Tu-160 Blackjack is a supersonic, variable-geometry heavy bomber, designed to strike strategic targets with nuclear and conventional weapons deep in continental theatres of operation.

Russia’s foreign ministry said Thursday that the landing of strategic bombers in Venezuela did not mean that Russia had established a military base in the South American country.

“Russia does not have military bases in Latin America,” Andrei Nesterenko, a spokesperson for the ministry said.

“The landing at the Venezuelan airbase was carried out in line with prior agreements between Russia and Venezuela.”

Androsov had said Thursday all Russian strategic patrols were performed in strict accordance with international rules on the use of airspace over neutral waters, without violating the borders of other states.

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