Russian nuclear-capable TU-160 bombers land in South Africa

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Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted dozens of leaders of African nations Wednesday at the first-ever Russia-Africa summit while a pair of nuclear-capable bombers made an unprecedented visit to the continent, reflecting Moscow’s new push for influence.

Footage from Russia’s Defence Ministry showed two TU-160 strategic fighter planes taking off from an unknown location in Russia, and later landing at the Waterkloof airfield in South Africa. The flight reportedly took more than 13 hours spanning over 11,000 kilometres (6,835 miles) and pilots had to refuel in the sky mid-journey.

The Defence Ministry said Russia will use the planes in joint military exercises with South African colleagues, describing the visit as a sign of “strategic partnership.”

At a bilateral meeting with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during the summit in Sochi, Putin said Moscow is looking to further expand trade with the country, one of the continent’s most developed economies.

Russia is also building on its status as Africa’s largest arms supplier, and has signed military cooperation agreements with at least 28 countries on the continent, the majority in the past five years.

Officials have talked about the possibility for Russian warplanes and navy ships to use ports and air bases in some African countries.

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