The Washington Post
11 de septiembre de 2008
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Two Russian long-range bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons will return to base from Venezuela in four days, the Air Force was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying on Thursday.
The bombers, known in the West by the NATO codename "Blackjack," were not carrying nuclear weapons during the flight to South America and will return to Russia on September 15, Air Force commander Vladimir Drik told Interfax.
"There were no nuclear weapons on board these planes," Drik said.
The visit by the Tu-160 bombers is a show of strength by newly-confident Russia at a time of tension with the United States after the war in Georgia and U.S. plans for a missile defence shield in eastern Europe.
On Wednesday Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the planes were in the South American oil-exporting nation to strengthen military ties and counter U.S. regional influences.
The bombers arrived days after Russia and Venezuela said they would conduct joint naval exercises in the Caribbean later this year involving a nuclear-powered Russian battleship.
The Russian military also held out the possibility of future flights to Cuba and that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may fly on board the Blackjacks currently in his country.
A close ally of Cuba who calls its former leader Fidel Castro a mentor, Chavez already joked he would greet his friend from one of the bombers.
"I'm going to fly one of those beasts," Chavez said on Wednesday.
When asked to comment, the head of the Russian Air Forces long-distance command, Pavel Androsov said that any requests would be considered positively.
"If they ask us, then fine, if they give us such an order, we will safely transport him (Chavez) and show him the Caribbean from above," Androsov was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Androsov said Russian military experts had studied Cuban airfields and there would be no problems landing there, but that this was not currently planned.
(Reporting by Conor Sweeney; editing by Robert Hart)