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Russia deploys two bombers to Venezuela for exercises

A Russian Tupolev Tu-160 strategic long-range heavy supersonic bomber aircraft is pictured upon landing at Maiquetia International Airport, just north of Caracas, on December 10, 2018
A Russian Tupolev Tu-160 strategic long-range heavy supersonic bomber aircraft is pictured upon landing at Maiquetia International Airport, just north of Caracas, on December 10, 2018 AFP
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Caracas (AFP)

Two Russian long-range strategic bombers landed in Venezuela Monday for what the government said were air force exercises aimed at strengthening the defense of the leftist-ruled South American country.

General Vladimir Padrino, the Venezuelan defense minister, welcomed about 100 Russian pilots and other personnel after the two TU-160s and two other aircraft landed at the international airport that serves Caracas.

Padrino said the deployment showed "we also are preparing to defend Venezuela to the last inch when necessary."

President Nicolas Maduro often accuses the United States of plotting against his government, which has overseen the plunge of a once-rich petro state into a severe economic crisis.

Besides the two bombers, the deployment included an An-124 transport plane and an Il-62 passenger plane, according to a Russian military announcement in Moscow.

Padrino noted that Russian aircraft had visited before in 2013, but said their current deployment was part of a "new experience."

He said exercises would be held to "raise the level of interoperability of the aerospace defense systems" of both countries.

It was unclear how long the Russian deployment would last, and Padrino did not provide details about the exercises planned.

In recent years, Venezuela has purchased millions of dollars in military equipment from Russia, he said.

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