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Russia is surprised by the commotion raised in Western media reports
Russia is surprised by the commotion raised in Western media reports over a recent incident involving Russian bombers in the Pacific Ocean, an aide to the Russian Air Force commander said on Tuesday.

Western media earlier cited an anonymous United States military official as saying that Russian bombers were intercepted on Saturday flying near an American aircraft carrier in the West Pacific.

Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky said: "During the flight they [the bombers] were escorted by F-15 fighters of the Japanese Air Force and [U.S.] F-18 fighters from the Nimitz aircraft carrier, which happened at that time to be in the patrolling zone of the Russian Tu-95s."

"We are surprised by the commotion that has been raised over this," he said.

According to the media reports, one Russian Tu-95 Bear bomber flew close above the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier to the south of Japan, and another circled some 50 nautical miles (93 kilometers) from the ship. Four F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters were reportedly launched from the air carrier to escort the Russian jets away from the area.

The reports also said the Russian fighters violated Japanese air space, prompting Japan to lodge a complaint with the Russian Embassy in Tokyo.

Drobyshevsky reiterated that all Russian strategic aviation flights are conducted in strict compliance with international regulations on the use of airspace over neutral waters and do not violate the borders of other states.

"We submit all necessary requests well in advance and deliver proper notifications," the official said.

Interceptions of combat aircraft were a common occurrence during the Cold War, but became a rarity when Russia abandoned permanent long-range patrol flights after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The last such incident was in July 2004, when a Bear bomber buzzed the USS Kitty Hawk in the Sea of Japan.

Russia resumed strategic bomber patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans last August, following an order signed by President Vladimir Putin. The move was widely seen as a sign of Russia's increasingly aggressive military stance.

In addition to Russia's opposition to U.S. plans to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, relations between the countries have been strained by Russia's decision late last year to impose a unilateral moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, a key arms reduction pact, as well as by NATO's expansion into the former Eastern Bloc.

In a speech last Friday, President Putin blamed the West for unleashing a new international arms race.


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