Source AP ©

Russian air force informing other countries of flights in advance

Russian recent resumption of long-range bomber missions is not a sign of aggression and authorities are informing other countries of the flights in advance, The Russian Air Force said Wednesday, the RIA-Novosti news agency said.

President Vladimir Putin announced last week that Russian bombers had started flights over the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The announcement, and earlier reports that British and Norwegian warplanes had scrambled to keep watch on Russian bombers that were approaching their airspace, raised concern that Russia was stepping up efforts to intimidate the West.

"There's no saber-rattling," Air Force spokesman Col. Alexander Drobyshevsky was quoted as saying. "Our pilots are not invading someone else's space and there is nothing aggressive about these actions in relation to other countries."

Drobyshevsky also was quoted as saying that the air force gives advance notice of the long-range missions.

Britain's Ministry of Defense on Tuesday said Royal Air Force jets had shadowed a Russian strategic bomber that approached British air space. The incident occurred Friday, the day of Putin's announcement.

Menzies Campbell, leader of Britain's opposition Liberal Democrats, expressed concern about photos of the Russian bombers that were posted on the Defense Ministry Web site.

"These pictures convey disturbing echoes of the Cold War," he said. "They emphasize the importance of vigilance, the protection of our air space and the effectiveness of the response of the Royal Air Force."