Posted Thursday, July 1, 1999

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Russian Bombers Said To Have Made Foray To Iceland

Updated 12:12 AM ET July 1, 1999

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Russian strategic bombers flew within striking distance of the United States last week as part of Moscow's largest military exercises since the end of the Cold War, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

Quoting unidentified U.S. officials, the newspaper said the TU-95 Bear bombers were intercepted by four U.S. F-15 fighters and a P-3 patrol plane near Iceland early Friday morning and escorted in a clockwise flight around the sland.

Norway also scrambled jets to meet two other TU-140 Blackjack bombers hat flew down the Norwegian coastline, but Russian reports said the nterceptors failed to reach the bombers before they turned back, the Post said.

U.S. officials told the newspaper the flights formed part of extensive exercises by the Russian armed forces last week. Though Russian bombers often probed Western defenses during the Cold War, officials said no such activity had been recorded in a decade and the appearance of the Russian long-ange bombers over Iceland and Norway surprised NATO.

The move was the latest in a pattern of perplexing Russian military actions in ecent weeks that have prompted concern in Washington and elsewhere about President Boris Yeltsin's control over his government and armed forces, the Post said.

Two weeks ago, 200 Russian troops suddenly occupied the Pristina airport in Kosovo without the consent of NATO's leadership. The ensuing standoff was resolved only after days of tortuous negotiations over a role for Russian roops in the NATO-led peacekeeping force.

© 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Our opinion
 WHAT were at first identified as Russian TU-95 "Bear" bombers are now believed to have been early versions of the "Blair" and "Bill" chickens coming home to roost.

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