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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Russian planes buzz Alaskan coast

The Russian air force held a massive exercise that involved strategic bombers flying across the North Pole and approaching Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and Japan, a top general said Friday.

Lt. Gen. Igor Khvorov, the commander of Russian long-range aviation, said the exercise that began Tuesday and finished Friday had nothing to do with heightening tensions between Russia and Georgia, Russian news reports said.

Khvorov said the exercise involved 70 Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22M3 bombers, which test-fired 18 cruise missiles, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

He said some bombers crossed the Arctic Ocean, flew over the North Pole and also reached Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and Japan's western coast without entering any country's airspace.

"All the aircraft involved flew over neutral waters, and none of them came closer than 12 nautical miles (25 km) to the maritime borders of any country," Khvorov said, according to RIA Novosti.

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