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Russian strategic bombers in Venezuela prepare for flight home

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Two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers have landed at an airfield near Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, to prepare for their long flight home, a Russian Air Force spokesman said on Wednesday.
MOSCOW, September 17 (RIA Novosti) - Two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers have landed at an airfield near Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, to prepare for their long flight home, a Russian Air Force spokesman said on Wednesday. (Russian strategic bombers - Image gallery)

"The flight time [from the Libertador airbase] was 40 minutes," Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said. "The pilots will carry out scheduled preparations at the Caracas airfield before the long flight home."

The aircraft will take off from an airfield near Caracas on September 18 and conduct a 15-hour return flight before landing at a base in Engels, in the southern Saratov Region, on September 19.

The bombers arrived in Venezuela on September 10 and were accompanied by NATO fighters during the 13-hour flight from their home base in central Russia.

During their stay, they successfully carried out a patrol mission along the South American coast.

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

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

Russia's Foreign Ministry earlier said 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 spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said. "The landing at the Venezuelan airbase was carried out in line with prior agreements between Russia and Venezuela."

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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