Russia says it can now operate nuclear capable bombers from Syrian air base

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FILE PHOTO: Russian military jets are seen at Hmeymim air base in Syria

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday it had the ability for the first time to operate long-range strategic nuclear-capable bombers from its air base in Syria, expanding its capabilities and allowing such planes to train in new regions.

Russia operates the Hmeymim base on Syria's Mediterranean coast, from which it has launched air strikes in the past in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Russian defence ministry said in a statement that three Tupolev Tu-22M3 long-range bombers had flown to Hmeymim.

It said runways at the base had been made longer and one of them upgraded allowing Russia to operate aircrafts of all types from the base.

The three newly arrived bombers would hold training exercises in new geographical areas over the Mediterranean Sea, the defence ministry said, before returning to their permanent airfields in Russia.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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