CHEBARKUL (Urals), August 17 (RIA Novosti) - President Vladimir Putin said Russia permanently resumed Friday long-distance patrol flights of strategic bombers, which were suspended in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"I made a decision to restore flights of Russian strategic bombers on a permanent basis, and at 00:00 today, August 17, 14 strategic bombers, support aircraft and aerial tankers were deployed. Combat duty has begun, involving 20 aircraft."
The president, speaking on the final day of military exercises involving Russia, China, and four Central Asian countries in the south Urals, said that on the first day of patrol flight, bomber planes would spend about 20 hours in the air, with midair refueling, and would interact with naval forces.
"Air patrol areas will include zones of commercial shipping and economic activity. As of today, combat patrolling will be on a permanent basis. It has a strategic character," Putin said.
The president said that although the country stopped strategic flights to remote regions in 1992, "Unfortunately, not everyone followed our example." Other states' long-distance strategic patrol flights have created certain problems for national security, he said.
"We act on the assumption that our partners will treat with understanding the resumption of strategic air flights. Our pilots have been grounded for too long. There is strategic aviation, but there are no flights," Putin said.
Leaders of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are in Russia's Chelyabinsk Region for the final day of Peace Mission 2007 counter-terrorism exercises, which began August 9. The drills have involved about 6,000 servicemen from member states Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Uzbekistan.