Two Russian strategic bombers landed in Venezuela on Wednesday as part of military maneuvers, the government said, announcing an unprecedented deployment to a new ally at a time when both nations are involved in tense relations with the U.S.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the two Tupelov-160 Blackjack Bombers flew to Venezuela on a training mission. It said in a statement carried by the Russian news wires that the planes will conduct training flights over neutral waters over the next few days before heading back to Russia.
It was not immediately known whether the bombers were armed.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — an unbridled critic of American foreign policy — said Wednesday the bombers were welcome in Venezuela, and that he hopes to “fly one of those things” himself.
Chavez called the Russian planes’ visit part of a move toward a “pluri-polar world” a reference to moving away from U.S. dominance. “The Yankee hegemony is finished,” Chavez said in a televised speech.
Also Wednesday, NATO said it ended a routine exercise by four naval ships in the Black Sea. Russia had denounced the exercise as part of a Western military buildup sparked by the Georgia conflict.