UNITED NATIONS -- In yet another instance of the Russian military flexing its muscles, Kremlin sources confirm that a "joint naval exercise" will commence in the North Atlantic starting Jan. 20.
Elaborating on a brief statement carried by Ria Novosti, Russia's defense ministry announced that a naval task force consisting of the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, the Udaloy-Class destroyers Admiral Levchenko and Admiral Chabenenko, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva and several unidentified "support vessels" will convene in the North Atlantic for "exercises" lasting "several days."
Vice Adm. Nikolai Maksimov of the Russian navy's northern fleet will lead the exercises.
The admiral is reported to have stated that the upcoming exercises are a prelude to a "permanent" presence in the region.
The Russian navy will be joined by elements of the Russian air force, namely Bear and Blackjack strategic bombers.
Several "practice exercises" by the Russian air force over the same region since last August, prompted "interceptions" by jets from the Norwegian and British air forces.
In each instance, the Russian bombers returned to international airspace when confronted by the British and Norwegian jets.
The upcoming military exercises are one of the largest maritime operations by Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
It comes as President Bush prepares his final State of the Union speech.
It also follows a recent confrontation between U.S. and Chinese warships in the Strait of Taiwan and the U.S. and Iranian vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.
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