Russia sends ‘White Swan’ bomber planes capable of nuclear strikes to Venezuela – as America declares the move a collaboration between ‘two corrupt governments’
- Two Russian TU-160 supersonic bombers landed in Caracas, Venezuela
- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the move on Twitter
- He called the deployment ‘two corrupt governments squandering public funds’
- Moscow hit back, calling him ‘highly undiplomatic’ and ‘inappropriate’
- Rejected criticism from U.S. ‘which can feed Africa with half its military budget’
Two Russian strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons have landed in Venezuela in a show of support from Moscow which has infuriated Washington.
The TU-160 supersonic bombers, known as ‘White Swans’ by Russian pilots, landed at Maiquetia airport near Caracas on Monday after covering more than 6,200 miles.
Their deployment came days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose left-wing administration is the most significant U.S. foe in Latin America, held talks with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Bad blood bombers: Two supersonic Tu-160 nuclear-capable strategic bombers have arrived in Venezuela, a deployment that comes amid soaring Russia-U.S. tensions
Capable of carrying short-range nuclear missiles, the planes, called Blacjack by NATO, can fly over 7,500 miles without re-fuelling and have landed in Venezuela twice before in the last decade.
‘Russia’s government has sent bombers halfway around the world to Venezuela,’ fumed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Twitter.
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‘The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.’
As OPEC member Venezuela’s socialist-run economy implodes, Russia has become a key lender of last resort, investing in its oil industry and providing support to its military.
Anger: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the deployment of the two Russian TU-160 supersonic bombers to Venezuela; ‘two corrupt governments squandering public funds’
Two Russian Tupolev Tu-160 strategic long-range heavy supersonic bomber aircrafts land at Maiquetia International Airport, just north of Caracas on Monday
Official welcome: Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino, centre, is pictured after the arrival of the two Russian bombers
RUSSIA’S TUPOLEV TU-160 BOMBER
Length: 177ft 5in
Wingspan: 182ft 9in (spread)
Weight: 242,505lbs (empty)
Range: 7,643miles (without refuelling)
Speed: 1,380mph at 40,000ft
Rate of climb: 13,860 ft/min
The Tupolev Tu-160 is the world’s largest operational bomber.
With a crew of four men, the TU-160 can carry 12 Kh-55 cruise missiles as well as 24 Kh-15 attack missiles.
The aircraft is part of the Long Range Aviation branch of the Russian Air Force which is involved with long-range nuclear weapons.
It first entered service during the Soviet Union in 1987. In total, 35 were built with 16 remaining in service with the Russian Air Force.
In 2015, Russia’s Ministry of Defence announced plans to relaunch production, with a contract signed in 2018.
Ten Tu-160M2 are set to be ready for delivery in 2027, costing the Russian government a rumoured £1.19bn.
The Kremlin on Tuesday rejected Pompeo’s criticism, saying it was ‘highly undiplomatic’ and ‘completely inappropriate.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said such criticism sounds odd coming from a country ‘half of whose military budget would be enough to feed the whole of Africa.’
Russia’s Defence Ministry, which said the bombers had been accompanied by two other Russian military planes, did not say if the planes were carrying missiles, how long they would stay for, or what their mission was.
Russia has used them in the past to flex its military muscles under the nose of the United States, delighting Venezuelan officials who have cast such flights as evidence it is able to defend itself, with allies’ help, from any attack.
Maduro frequently invokes the possibility of a U.S. invasion in the South American nation, a notion Washington denies.
Maduro said the talks with Putin in Moscow this month yielded Russian investment in the South American country’s oil and gold sectors.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told his Venezuelan counterpart at the time that such long-range flights provided pilots with excellent experience and helped maintain the planes’ combat readiness.
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