MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he had ordered the military to resume regular long-range flights of strategic bombers, news agencies reported, returning to a practice that ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Speaking as Russian and Chinese forces held major war games exercises for the first time on Russian territory, Putin said a halt in long-range bombers' flights after the Soviet collapse had affected Russia's security as other nations had continued such missions — an oblique reference to the United States.
"I have made a decision to resume regular flights of Russian strategic aviation," Putin was quoted as saying by Russian agencies.
"We proceed from the assumption that our partners will view the resumption of flights of Russia's strategic aviation with understanding," Putin was quoted as saying.
The war games, which took place near the Urals Mountain city of Chelyabinsk, came on the same day that Russia air force said its strategic bombers flew several missions ranging far over the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans.
Putin said that 20 Russian bombers were involved in the exercise.
"Starting today, such tours of duty would be regular," Putin said. "Our pilots have been grounded for too long, they are happy to start a new life."
Soviet bombers routinely flew such missions to areas from which nuclear-tipped cruise missiles could be launched at the United States, but stopped in the post-Soviet economic meltdown.
Booming oil prices over recent years have allowed Russia to sharply increase its military spending.
"Starting in 1992, the Russian Federation unilaterally suspended strategic aviation flights to remote areas," Putin said. "Regrettably, other nations haven't followed our example. That has created certain problems for Russia's security."