By Richard HoltRussian bombers launch missiles over ArcticTue Sep 4, 2007 19:00Russian bombers launch missiles over Arctic
By Richard Holt
Last Updated: 2:03am BST 04/09/2007
Twelve Russian strategic bombers are taking part in military exercises above the Arctic involving the launching of tactical cruise missiles.
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The Russian air force spokesman did not specify the exact location of the exercises but confirmed that the TU-95MC bombers would take off from five air bases stretching from the Volga River city of Engels to Anadyr on the Chukotka Peninsula overlooking the United States.
Russian bomber being shadowed by a RAF jet last month
"The planes will also practise mid-air refuelling from Il-78 transport planes," he said.
President Vladimir Putin announced last month that Russia has resumed long-range patrols by its bomber planes for the first time since the end of the Cold War.
Mr Putin said the resumption of patrols was needed to guarantee national security.
In August RAF fighter jets were sent to intercepts a Russian bomber which was heading towards British air space over the North Atlantic.
The Arctic exercises follow a widely advertised scientific expedition to the North Pole last month with the task of finding justification for Russia's claims for a bigger slice of the Arctic zone, believed to have rich mineral resources.
Relations with both Europe and the United States have been deteriorating as Russia, buoyed by booming energy prices, has shaken off the post-Soviet malaise of the 1990s.
Western criticism has mounted as Mr Putin curtailed freedoms in Russia and imposed economic punishments on ex-Soviet neighbours who had pursued a pro-Western course.
In June The Kremlin was angered by US plans to move missile systems into eastern Europe.
Mr Putin threatened to aim Russian nuclear missiles at European cities in retaliation.
While Washington insists that the missiles are directed at the growing threat of Iran and North Korea, the Kremlin is convinced they are directed at Russia.
Earlier this month Sergei Ivanov, the hawkish Russian defence minister seen as a possible successor to Mr Putin when he stands down next year, announced an eight-year £100 billion military upgrade.
Defence spending has quadrupled since Mr Putin came to power in May 2000.
Russian planes handle domestic jobs, too. When rockets like the Atlas Vs have to be transported from the Lockheed plant in Colorado to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, these transporters from our former adversaries get the call.
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