Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers have flown over the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, prompting Japan and South Korea to scramble jets to escort them, Russia said on Thursday.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said in a statement the Tupolev-95MS bombers, code named “Bears” by NATO, flew over neutral waters and were accompanied by Russian Sukhoi-35S fighter jets and A-50 early warning and control aircraft.

It gave no details about the overall number of aircraft that had taken part in what it called a pre-arranged flight and did not say when or why the mission took place.

The TU-95MS bombers were refueled in mid-air during the mission, the ministry said.

Source: Reuters

Why it’s on our radar: This was Russia’s way of reminding everyone that Moscow has an advanced military capability and skin in the game regarding what happens in North Korea. Both Russia and China have moved forces closer to their shared borders with North Korea, most likely in anticipation of having to interdict refugees should hostilities break out on the peninsula — expected and reasonable. But obviously President Putin is sending messages of his own that the Russian Bear is on station and that Moscow is both paying attention to what’s going on and must be factored in/reckoned with.