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    (AIR FORCE COMMANDER MIKHAILOV: RUSSIA'S SKIES RELIABLY PROTECTED(

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    ZHELEZNODOROZHNY, April 9 (RIA Novosti) - Vladimir Mikhailov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force, sees no need in building up air defence of the country's northern regions. He said this to journalists in Zarya near Moscow, where official functions on the occasion of the Air Defence Troops Day were held.

    "The northern region has enough equipment to ensure air navigation. Why should the enemy drop bombs on the permafrost?" Mikhailov wondered. He stressed that the European, central and Far Eastern regions are under a reliable air defence protection.

    Recalling the April 7 command-and-staff drill of the CIS united air defence, Vladimir Mikhailov noted the high reliability of the automated air defence control system of the Commonwealth.

    "Costly equipment and men should not be drawn into the northern regions of Russia, which need them not", he said.

    Air defence equipment now in service can well be updated, Mikhailov added. He recalled that deep-going modernisation of the fighter-interceptor Mig-31 has been under way since 2002. "Its flight performances and weapons capabilities for combat use have not yet been exhausted. The plane has vast reserves", Vladimir Mikhailov said.

    The Air Defence Day will be marked on April 11.

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