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The two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers that landed in Venezuela
The two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers that landed in Venezuela last week have successfully carried out a patrol mission along the South American coast, a Russian Air Force spokesman said on Tuesday. (Russian strategic bombers - Image gallery)

"The aircraft took off from the Libertador airbase in Venezuela on Monday and flew along the South American coast toward Brazil," Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said.

The bombers landed back at the Latin American base after a six-hour flight.

"The flight was performed in strict accordance with international rules on the use of airspace over neutral waters, without violating the borders of other states," the spokesman said.

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

According to the spokesman, the bombers are carrying dummy missiles without warheads and their primary mission is to practice patrol sorties in a tropical climate.

Drik earlier said that following the training mission, the Tu-160 crews would meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The bombers are set to leave Venezuela on Thursday and head back to their base in southern Russia.

"The aircraft will take off from an airfield near Caracas on September 18 and conduct a 15-hour return flight to Russia. Their landing at a base in Engels [Saratov Region] is scheduled for September 19," Drik 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. Russian bombers have since carried out more than 90 strategic patrol flights and have often been escorted by NATO planes.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in mid-August that the Bush administration was unhappy with flights by Russian strategic bombers near U.S. borders and accused Moscow of playing a "dangerous game."


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