Russia, Belarus begin military exercise

Russia and Belarus begin a joint exercise as a fleet of Russian warships is heading to the Venezuelan waters for a naval war games in November.

Practice missile launches using strategic bombers will be conducted from 6 to 12 October as part of large scale Moscow-Minsk maneuvers which began on Monday.

Meanwhile, an undisclosed number of Russian warships, including a nuclear-powered cruiser and an anti-submarine vessel, are heading for Venezuela to engage military exercises there.

The joint drills with Belarus aim at practicing the strategic development of armed forces and will take place in various regions of the two participating countries.

Moscow has repeatedly stressed the need to continue the development of its Strategic Nuclear Forces, including its airborne component, so that they are able to respond promptly and effectively to any aggression.

The month-long Stability-2008 exercise forms part of more than 200 scheduled maneuvers including 350 live firing drills in the second half of 2008 intended to "train the deployment of the Russian Armed Forces, combat missions of troops to localize and fight armed conflicts, terrorist activities, natural disasters and man-made catastrophes in order to provide strategic deterrence and security for the Russia-Belarus Union State," Itar-Tass said, citing Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

According to RIA Novosti the Russian Air Force currently has at least 141 Tu-22M3 Backfire-C, 40 Tu-95 Bear-H and 16 modernized Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers in service which can deploy both long-range cruise missiles and short-range nuclear missiles.

The Kremlin has been actively trying to strengthen contacts with Latin American nations recently, including Venezuela and Cuba because of tense relations with the US following the Russia-Georgia conflict last month.



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