- Putin and other Russian officials warned Finland and Sweden not to join NATO
- He later rolled back his comments after they submitted applications in May
- But flyover of the heavy bombers is a reminder of Moscow’s nuclear readiness
- Tu-160 is a heavy strategic bomber capable of supersonic flight and can carry up to 88,000lbs’ worth of weaponry including nuclear and hypersonic missiles
- Flyover comes as Russian president conducts a diplomatic visit to Tehran
PUBLISHED: 02:32 AEST, 20 July 2022 | UPDATED: 02:54 AEST, 20 July 2022
Putin and other Russian officials on several occasions warned Finland and Sweden, who had long been militarily neutral until their decision to apply for NATO membership, not to join forces with the Western security bloc upon threat of military action.
The despot later rolled back his comments in the wake of the Nordic countries’ formal application in May, telling pundits: ‘There is nothing that could bother us about Sweden and Finland joining NATO. They can join whatever they want,’ in a scrambling attempt to save face.
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But the deployment of two aircraft capable of carrying and launching nuclear warheads serves as a stark reminder of Moscow’s opposition to the expansion of NATO along the northern Russian border.
MiG-31 fighter jets escorted the Tu-160 aircraft, nicknamed ‘White Swans’, on a mission lasting more than seven hours.
The flyover comes as the Russian leader arrived in the Iranian capital Tehran on only his second visit outside Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s nuclear supersonic White Swans fly near Finland and Sweden.
Warmongering Russian president Vladimir Putin has sent two supersonic Tu-160 nuclear missile bombers (pictured) soaring over the Barents Sea north of Finland and Sweden in yet another show of force
A pilot is pictured at the controls of the ‘White Swan’ Tu-160 strategic heavy bomber aircraft
A MiG-31 fighter jet is pictured cruising off the wing of a Tu-160 nuclear capable bomber flying over the Barents sea
One Tu-160 is pictured taking off while the other is seen in the background taxiing along the runway
Russia’s defence ministry released a cookie-cutter statement in the wake of the flyover, which coincided with Russian missiles striking several settlements in eastern and southern Ukraine.
‘All flights by Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft are carried out in strict compliance with international rules of airspace use,’ the ministry said.
The Tu-160 is a heavy strategic bomber capable of supersonic flight and designed to deliver nuclear and conventional strikes against reinforced military targets or those in remote areas.
It can carry up to a staggering 88,000lbs’ worth of weaponry including nuclear and hypersonic missiles as well as conventional warheads – but must be accompanied by fighter jets as it lacks defensive weapons.
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The flight of the White Swans over the Barents sea close to Finnish and Swedish shores represents yet another example of Putin’s tried and tested nuclear sabre-rattling to discourage further military action from NATO and the West.
Russia’s show of nuclear readiness over the Barents sea came as Putin arrived in the Iran for a visit intended to deepen ties with regional heavyweights as part of Moscow’s challenge to the United States and Europe amid the war in Ukraine.
In only his second trip abroad since Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine on February 24, Putin is scheduled to hold talks with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the pressing issues facing the region, including the conflict in Syria and a UN-backed proposal to resume exports of Ukrainian grain to ease the global food crisis.
Russian officials visited an airfield in central Iran at least twice in recent weeks to review Tehran’s weapons-capable drones for possible use in Ukraine, the White House has alleged.
Vladimir Putin is pictured stepping off a plane on an airfield in the Iranian capital of Tehran earlier today
Putin is scheduled to hold talks with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi hold a meeting in Tehran on July 19, 2022
A handout photo provided by the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office shows him (C) receiving Russian President Vladimir Putin in the presence of his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, on July 19, 2022
Putin is seeking to bolster ties with Tehran, a fellow target of US sanctions and a potential military and trade partner, and in addition to President Raisi meetx Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with whom he has a ‘trusting dialogue,’ Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said.
The Tehran trip also offers Putin a chance for a high-stakes meeting with Erdogan, who has sought to help broker talks on a peaceful settlement of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as well as help negotiations to unblock Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.
Erdogan’s Turkey is a member of NATO, the expansion of which Putin stands firmly against.
But the Turkish president has been vocal about his disapproval of the Nordic nations joining the security bloc and has historically maintained a strong relationship with the Russian leader – though this has waned in recent months amid the war in Ukraine and a planned deal between the US and Turkey for an upgrade of Turkey’s air force.