Russia warns NATO fighters

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Moscow, May 10 (UNI) Russia today warned NATO fighters against dangerous maneuvering near Russian Tupolev Tu-95MS and Tu-160 strategic bombers, saying it may lead to air incidents.

''I would not want to single that out but I must say that they are acting tactlessly, to put it mildly,'' Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force Col Gen Alexander Zelin told Interfax news agency today.

''They approach our strategic bombers within unacceptable distances and at unacceptable intervals, conduct various maneuvers around them and violate flight safety rules in every way,'' Col Gen Zelin said.

''It is good that our crews have good self-control and discipline,'' he added.

''They turn on monitoring equipment and record the violations. So if there is any dispute we will always be able to prove that we were right and acted properly,'' he claimed.

''Especially as there exist certain agreements in the framework of international conventions that must be strictly fulfilled,'' he informed.

Russia has bilateral agreements on the prevention of air accidents with almost all leading nations he said, pointing out ''They define clear distances and intervals between aircraft.'' Gen Zelin said Russian strategic aviation continues patrolling the air above the oceans which was resumed last August. Russian bombers make regular flights over the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic oceans in addition to the Black and Mediterranean seas, he added.

''Today in line with the approved plans we are making 20-30 flights over the indicated areas. Simultaneously we are carrying out air defence and other missions,'' he said.

''As a rule such missions are coordinated with naval tasks and rescue operations,'' he noted.

''Duty aircraft both from NATO members and other states regularly escort us when during our combat patrol flight. By the way, as far as we know British pilots are very happy that we have started making flights to the North Atlantic - they are being paid additional fees for combat duty,'' he said.

''However, this is no friendly escort for our strategic bombers,'' he added.

''F-15, F-16 and F-22 fighters regularly attack us above the Artic Ocean. It is not a misuse of the word ''attack'' because our partners are training combat action reaching the point of attack. I must confess that this is quite unpleasant and even dangerous.

Naturally we rehearse our counteractions,'' Col Zelin said.

UNI XC RJ KN1905

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