The Associated Press
Septembre 10, 2008
MOSCOW -- Two Russian strategic bombers landed in Venezuela on Wednesday as part of military maneuvers, the government said, announcing an unprecendented deployment to the territory of a new ally at a time of increasingly tense relations with the U.S.
Russia's Defense Ministry said the two Tu-160 bombers flew to Venezuela on a training mission. It said in a statement carried by the Russian news wires that the planes will conduct training flights over neutral waters over the next few days before heading back to Russia.
Also Wednesday, NATO said it ended a routine exercise by four naval ships in the Black Sea. Russia had denounced the exercise as part of a Western military buildup sparked by the Georgia conflict.
The alliance said the four ships _ U.S. frigate USS Taylor and three similar vessels from Spain, Germany and Poland _ were moving back to the Mediterranean Sea after the 18-day mission.
In Moscow, Defense Ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky refused to say how long the Venezuela deployment will last or say whether the planes carried any weapons.
The military said NATO fighters escorted the two Russian bombers on their way to Venezuela.
The apparently retaliatory move follows the U.S. deployment of warships to deliver aid to the former Soviet nation of Georgia, barely a month after Russian armor and aircraft crushed the Georgian military in a five-day war.
Earlier this week, Russia said it will send a naval squadron and long-range patrol planes to Venezuela in November for a joint military exercise in the Caribbean.
The deployment of planes will be certain to anger Washington. Relations between the U.S. and Russia have been badly strained by the short war last month between Russia and U.S.-allied Georgia.