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Two Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers arrived in Venezuela on Monday, a deployment that comes amid soaring Russia-US tensions, report agencies.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said a pair Tu-160 bombers landed at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas on Monday following a 10,000-kilometer (6,200-mile) flight. It didn’t say if the bombers were carrying any weapons and didn’t say how long they will stay in Venezuela. The ministry said the bombers were shadowed by Norwegian F-18 fighter jets during part of their flight. It added that a heavy-lift An-124 Ruslan cargo plane and an Il-62 passenger plane accompanied the bombers to Maiquetia.
The Tu-160 is capable of carrying conventional or nuclear-tipped cruise missiles with a range of 5,500 kilometers (3,410 miles). Such bombers took part in Russia’s campaign in Syria, where they launched conventionally-armed Kh-101 cruise missiles for the first time in combat. Code-named Blackjack by NATO, the massive warplane is capable of flying at a speed twice exceeding the speed of sound. Russia has upgraded its Tu-160 fleet with new weapons and electronics and plans . The bombers’ deployment follows Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s visit to Moscow last week in a bid to shore up political and economic assistance even as his country has been struggling to pay billions of dollars owed to Russia.