Russia says it is sharply extending the range of its bomber flights from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, a new show of military force even as Moscow continues to spar with the West over its intervention in Ukraine.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the new flights Wednesday, saying that "in the current situation we have to maintain military presence" in the western Atlantic, the eastern Pacific, as well as over waters approaching the United States.
The additional flights come in the wake of accusations by NATO, the Western military alliance, that Russia recently has sent its fighters into European airspace in what it says are larger, more complex formations of aircraft flying more "provocative" routes than usual. NATO says Moscow has flown patrols over the Black, Baltic and North seas, along with the Atlantic Ocean.
Russian bomber patrol flights were common in the Cold War era, ending with the fall of the Soviet Union. But Russian President Vladimir Putin revived them in 2007.
Earlier this year, Shoigu announced that Russia was expanding its worldwide military presence and seeking permission for its ships to use ports in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere to do maintenance and replenish supplies. Russia said it was conducting negotiations with Algeria, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore.