updated 9/6/2007 8:23:14 AM ET 2007-09-06T12:23:14

Norwegian F-16 fighters scrambled twice Thursday to monitor a flight of eight Russia bombers that neared the Nordic country’s territory in the latest show of air power by the Kremlin, defense officials said.

The British Ministry of Defense separately confirmed that British jets were also involved, but did not give immediate details.

Russian news agencies quoted air force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky as saying the long-range bombers had begun patrols of distant areas of the globe late Wednesday, in accordance with plans announced by President Vladimir Putin for a resumption of the flights.

Lt. Col. John Inge Oeglaend, of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, said the bombers, all Tu-95s, neared but did not enter Norwegian airspace in the far north.

'Normal routine'
“They followed a normal route in international airspace,” he said by telephone from the western Norway port of Stavanger. He said they flew near Norway’s northern tip over the Barents Sea, then over the North Atlantic and back.

Oeglaend said two Norwegian fighters were sent up both times that the Russian aircraft approached Norway, in keeping with normal practice.

The Tu-95 bombers began the patrols “over the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans involving in-flight refueling,” ITAR-Tass and Interfax quoted Drobyshevsky as saying.

He said the flights were not violating international regulations and that the planes “are flying over neutral waters, not approaching close to the air borders of foreign countries,” according to ITAR-Tass.

Shadowed in the sky
Drobyshevsky said that “practically all (the bombers involved) are being shadowed by NATO jets,” the reports said.

Norway, a member of the NATO alliance, and Russia shared land and ocean borders in the Arctic, including the vast Barents Sea.

According to Oeglaend, this is the third time Norwegian fighters have scrambled since mid-July to monitor a rising number of Russia military air exercises.

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